Declan Rice to lead Ben White charm offensive in hope of England U-turn

Declan Rice and Ben White in Arsenal training

Declan Rice plans to speak with Arsenal team-mate Ben White over his self-imposed England exile and hopes he, Bukayo Saka and Aaron Ramsdale can change the defender’s mind.

Telegraph Sport last week revealed that White’s decision to step away from the England set up came after a barbed comment from Gareth Southgate’s assistant Steve Holland at the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.

White asked to leave the England camp in Qatar and made himself unavailable for selection for the friendlies against Brazil and Belgium, despite the player’s excellent form for Arsenal.

An injury to Kyle Walker may well have put White in the frame to start against Belgium on Tuesday night, but his absence is likely to hand another opportunity to Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa at right-back.

Rice will captain England for the first time in what will be his 50th appearance for the Three Lions against Belgium and admitted that he hopes White will change his mind - with the help of some of his other Arsenal team-mates.

“When I get back (to Arsenal), I can have a conversation with him and see the ins and outs, and see what he thinks,” said Rice. “I would love him to come (back). I think Bukayo would. I think Aaron Ramsdale would. I think we’re all going to be on him when we get back to say…hopefully, he can change his mind.

“I would love him to be here. Playing against him and now playing with him, seeing how he is … he is very quiet, keeps himself to himself but when he’s on the pitch, he’d do anything for his team to win.

“I think he’s a really unique player because he can play three positions. In tournaments that’s so key. He can play centre-back, he can play right-back, he can play inverted full-back.

“It’s Ben’s life, it’s Ben’s decision. Obviously people are going to have opinions, people are going to write stuff about it but, ultimately, he’s content with his decision.”

Arsenal's Martin Odegaard, Ben White, Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice celebrate in the Champions League

Other than speaking to White about his England exile on his return to Arsenal, Rice must prepare for what he admitted could be a Premier League title decider against Manchester City on Sunday.

“We know what a big game it is going to be, like you said, a potential title-decider, it’s going to be really tight,” said Rice. “We have got to go to the Etihad which is going to be really tough, but if you want to get past that barrier of Arsenal being labelled stuff, you have to go there and win.

“We have to show that steeliness and character to prove we can be one of the best teams. There’s no doubt that City are the best team in the world at the minute, but we have full confidence and belief as a group and the manager that we can get a result.”

Rice has been on England duty with City trio John Stones, Phil Foden and Kyle Walker, and revealed Stones was not even aware he was due to face Arsenal this weekend.

“The first day I came [on England duty], I saw John Stones and he didn’t even know they were playing us next,” said Rice, laughing. “When he’s away from football he likes to be with his family and switch off and I get that, he likes to take one game at a time.

“I said ‘big game next’ and John said ‘who are you playing?’ and I said ‘we’ve got you lot!’ He said ‘oh yeah!’ That tells you how much we speak about it when we’re here! With Walks [Kyle Walker] he always has a little bit of banter, he’s a great lad.”