Arter responds to claims his row with Keane sparked Rice's England switch

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Declan Rice England 2019
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The former Manchester United star fell out with the Cardiff City midfielder in the months leading up to the West Ham man swapping allegiances

Republic of Ireland midfielder Harry Arter has spoken for the first time about the impact his infamous fall-out with Roy Keane played in Declan Rice's decision to switch his international allegiances to England.

Rice, who previously won three friendly caps for Ireland, failed to return to the squad after he witnessed Keane's explosive rant directed at Arter last summer, as the then-Ireland assistant boss vented his annoyance at the Cardiff City midfielder after he missed a training session on the advice of medical staff.

Rice was one of the first players to talk to Arter after he witnessed the incident at the team hotel, with the West Ham midfielder never returning to the Ireland setup before he declared to play for England in February.

Arter only returned to the Ireland squad after he received a telephone apology from Keane, and now he has offered up his version of events in an exclusive interview with Goal, though he suggests Rice's decision to quit the Ireland squad was not wholly down to his bust-up with the former Manchester United captain.

"Personally, I don't think my situation [with Keane] was the big factor in Declan's decision, but his mind was turned at some point and you would have to ask him when that moment came," he said.

"I know how much it meant for Declan to play for Ireland, but clearly something changed last summer and it was partly due to his form with West Ham, the offer from England and maybe some other factors as well at that time.

"Declan is a young player and he has strong English and Irish connections in his family. I know how keen his dad was for him to wear the green shirt and play for Ireland, and that made his decision to walk away from the squad very difficult for him.

"Having spoken to him, I know he was torn by the decision he had to make and it was not a call he could make easily. Until his career is finished and he can assess what he has achieved, he won't know whether he has made the right move by switching to England, but I believe you have to respect what he has done."

English-born Arter came under fire on social media when rumours emerged that he may be considering switching his own international allegiances from Ireland to England in 2016, so it is no surprise to hear him urging fans to avoid abusing Rice for his decision to play for the country of his birth.

Harry Arter Ireland 2017

"From our point of view, there is no doubt it was a massive blow to lose Declan because he is a player who could have been vital for Ireland for the next 10 years, but I would urge everyone in Ireland not to attack him for what has happened," he added.

"He has a tough call to make, it has not gone in our favour, but don't judge him for that. Don't have a go at him on social media or whatever other route because this was a young man who was in a tough position and it wasn't ideal for anyone to be in that position.

"I got abuse a few years back when there were rumours that I might be considering switching my allegiances to England and it wasn't nice, so I can only imagine what kind of stuff he has been getting in the last few weeks since he made his intentions clear.

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"He knew he was going to get abuse and, with social media now, there are people sitting behind computer screens who never show their faces and feel tough to write nasty stuff.

"I'm sure Declan knew that was coming, but the only thing I would say he could have done better on was making that decision a little quicker. It went on too long and people were asking every time the squad met up what he was going to do, but it's done now and we all have to move on."

Ireland begin their Euro 2020 qualification campaign in Gibraltar on Saturday before they host Georgia three days later as Mick McCarthy returns to the dugout following the sacking of O'Neill.