Former Liverpool manager Graeme Souness has admitted that he believes West Ham midfielder Declan Rice was pressurised into switching his national team allegiance to England.
The 20-year-old had represented the Republic of Ireland at various youth levels before making three international friendly appearances against Turkey, France and the United States last year for the senior side.
Yet through a message released on his official Twitter account, Rice revealed that he had chosen to open himself up for a future as part of the England setup over Ireland, choosing the country of his birth rather than that of his grandparents.
Following the Hammers midfielder's controversial statement, Souness questioned the reasoning behind his decision.
Speaking to Virgin Media Sport (via the Independent), the former Scotland international said: "I look at that statement, which has been drafted by a lawyer or a PR consultant, and it just oozes that his advisers are telling him 'For you to fully cash in on your career over the next ten or 12 years, you're better being an English international.
"'You're more valuable to whoever may be interested in using you in some sort of advertising way. You'll be far more valuable to them if you're wearing an English shirt than an Irish shirt.'
"I don't see those words being drafted by the player himself, every sentence is covering his backside about not trying to upset anyone. I think he has been coerced into making that choice; I think [by] someone with a big influence on him."
Rice's excellent form for West Ham this season has seen him establish himself as a key player for manager Manuel Pellegrini, who has started the versatile youngster in 23 of his side's 25 Premier League fixtures.
A product of the Hammers academy, the youngster scored his first ever goal for the club against Arsenal in January and his consistent level of performances would have surely attracted the attention of England boss Gareth Southgate ahead of the Three Lions' UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier against the Czech Republic in March.