West Ham United teenager Declan Rice continued his football education by making his second senior start for the Republic of Ireland in Monday’s defeat by France.
The 19-year-old, who enjoyed a breakout 2017/18 season in Claret and Blue, was named in central midfield by Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, pitting him against the likes of Juventus’ Blaise Matuidi, Bayern Munich’s Corentin Tolisso and Sevilla’s Steven N'Zonzi.
While Ireland lost 2-0 in a rain-swept Paris, Rice was again impressive, patrolling in front of the back four on a night when the Irish struggled to keep possession against a strong French team.
The goals came in a four-minute spell just before half-time, with both owing a little to luck.
Olivier Giroud opened the scoring, powering a trademark header towards goal from a corner, only to see Ireland captain Seamus Coleman block his effort with inches to spare. The ball eluded goalkeeper Colin Doyle and fell to the Chelsea forward, who prodded over the line at the second attempt. Even then, Coleman made a heroic effort to keep the ball out, but Giroud ultimately prevailed.
Then, a minute before half-time, Nabil Fekir collected the ball on the left corner of the Ireland penalty area and cut onto his right foot. Rice attempted to close down the Lyon forward, but when Fekir got his shot away, Doyle was unable to deal with it, parrying the ball into the air before seeing it loop agonisingly into the net.
Ireland blooded a number of other young players during the second half at the Stade de France, with Rice reverting to a central defensive role for the final 20 minutes and helping keep the scoreline more than respectable.
The West Ham youngster and his international teammates will complete the season on Saturday, when the United States – who beat Bolivia 3-0 later on Monday – visit the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the second time.