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FootballDeclan Rice 'honoured' to be named England captain for Belgium friendly

Declan Rice ‘honoured’ to be named England captain for Belgium friendly

Declan Rice described being named England captain for Tuesday’s friendly against Belgium as “an absolute honour”, as he prepares to don the armband on his 50th appearance for the Three Lions.

With Harry Kane leaving the England camp to return to Bayern Munich after sustaining an ankle injury, Kyle Walker led the team out for Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Brazil at Wembley Stadium.

However, the right-back was substituted early on due to a hamstring issue, with Harry Maguire taking the armband before John Stones took over when he was withdrawn in the second half.

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On Monday, Southgate confirmed Rice will skipper his country for the first time against Belgium, and the Arsenal midfielder is relishing the opportunity.

“I’m speechless, lost for words,” Rice said at Monday’s pre-match press conference. “When Gareth told me last night I was going to be captain, I gave him a hug, shook his hand and thanked him.

“I owe him a lot. Since I first came into the team, he’s made me feel at home. I’ve always felt so comfortable playing under him and I’ve grown in confidence.

“For my 50th cap, to walk out at Wembley in front of my family and friends, it’s an absolute honour. Tomorrow is going to be a pinch-me moment so I’m looking forward to it.”

Sitting alongside Rice, Southgate said the midfielder’s leadership skills had been obvious from day one, marking him out as a future captain.

“Declan is here, it’s his 50th cap. He has great leadership and experience already at a younger age,” Southgate said. “It’s a great opportunity for younger players to show leadership.

“There’s a different feel about the group, a different dynamic. A lot of the players with the squad now are the future, for the mid and long term.

“With Dec you could sense that stability, his maturity in his decision-making process, and he led from a very young age at West Ham. He’s already gained some good experiences.

“It would be easy to take a step back because we have some older players here but some of our young ones have got great leadership skills already.

“Some are more than entitled enough to boss some of the older ones around and to be demanding of us as a coaching staff. He’s got those qualities and the respect of everybody to do that.”

Rice could partner Jordan Henderson on Tuesday, though Southgate said the Ajax man is unlikely to get a full 90 minutes, while Jude Bellingham could start after suffering from cramp against Brazil.

Meanwhile, Southgate confirmed Brentford’s Ivan Toney “will be involved” in Kane’s absence, after Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins struggled to make an impression up front on Saturday.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.

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