England manager Gareth Southgate defends Declan Rice over pro-IRA posts

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       Gareth Southgate believes England fans will be understanding over pro-IRA messages Declan Rice posted on social

Earlier this afternoon, Rice took to Instagram to express his sorrow at the old posts.

The West Ham midfielder played three senior internationals for the Republic of Ireland before switching his allegiances to England, with the tweets from 2015 drawing this response from Southgate.

England play the Czech Republic at Wembley at 19:45pm tomorrow. "Up the Ra" refers to the IRA.

The former Republic of Ireland global switched his allegiance to England last month and was this week called up to Gareth Southgate's squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro.

English-born Arter came under fire on social media when rumours emerged that he may be considering switching his own global 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.

"This was when he was 15 or 16 when he was engaged in a social conversation with friends", said Southgate, who hadn't spoken to Rice about the posts.

Southgate has been credited with reconnecting the England football team with the general public
Southgate has been credited with reconnecting the England football team with the general public

He also apologised for his remarks on his Instagram account.

"I recognise now that my attempt to show support for my team-mates at the time could be negatively interpreted".

"While my naive words were not meant to be a political opinion and do not represent who I am, I sincerely apologise for any offence I caused".

"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.

He will face no punishment from the FA but the body has written to the 20-year-old to remind him of his responsibilities. He is in Gareth Southgate's current Three Lions squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

He admits it was a tough decision - but has no intention of looking back and wants to concentrate on becoming an England star. "I am from England", he told reporters after joining up with his new teammates at St George's Park.

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