LONDON: West Ham midfielder Declan Rice, on the brink of making his England debut in the Euro 2020 qualifiers, has apologises for the  apparent support he expressed for the IRA when he was 15 writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Rice, then a member of a Republic of Ireland youth squad, posted: “Up the RA,” an abbreviation for the violence-supporting Irish Republican Army.

The 20-year-old appeared for the Republic of Ireland’s youth teams and won three senior caps but world federation FIFA last week ratified his switch to England as those three appearances came in friendlies. Rice was the only uncapped player in the squad named by England manager Gareth Southgate for the Group A qualifiers against Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday and then Montenegro on Monday.

In a statement Rice said: “I am aware that a poorly expressed comment I made when I was a junior player has been circulated on social media.

“I recognise now that my attempt to show support for my teammates 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 caused.”

Southgate supported Rice by saying: “Most people have discussed things, said things, written things that might not look in the way we would want them several years later.

“People are still maturing at that age and you are in conversations with friends and you can get giddy and you can say things that maybe you don’t know enough about or you don’t understand the context. So I think our fans and our public will recognise that.”

The Football Association said: “We are aware of the matter and will be writing to him to remind him of his responsibilities.”

England will be without in-form Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford for both games because of an ankle injury.