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England v Poland: Declan Rice says Gareth Southgate’s side are ‘entertaining’

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Venue: Wembley Date: Wednesday, 31 March Kick-off: 19:45 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, text commentary on the BBC Sport website

Declan Rice believes England are an “entertaining team to watch”, after critics suggested Gareth Southgate’s side are too cautious.

The West Ham player once again partnered Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips as holding midfielders in England’s 2-0 win over Albania last weekend.

“I think in Gareth’s mind you can’t go too attacking,” the 22-year-old said.

“You can’t go all out all the time because the opposition have got quality and can hurt you.”

Although the tactics paid off against Albania, a similar game plan failed to do so in two Uefa Nations League games against Denmark last year, which ended in a goalless draw and defeat. It was Rice and Phillips who also started in those matches.

“No-one kicks up a fuss, we all go out there and know our jobs,” Rice told BBC Radio 5 Live on the eve of Wednesday’s World Cup qualifying game against Poland.

“There is a lot of talk around not needing two holding midfielders, why not playing six attackers? I kind of understand why the manager sometimes doesn’t do that. There has to be that balance between the two.”

Rice said England’s system helps the side enjoy more possession of the ball and that there were “a lot of things to be positive about”.

“We have control of the ball, we try to move the ball really quickly, try to shift the teams from side to side and then look for openings,” he said.

“I think we are a really entertaining team to watch. I think people complain all the time and say that we are not, but I think we have really improved as a group over the past couple of years.”

Rice has flourished at West Ham this season, helping the side to fifth in the Premier League. He said he does not want to solely be recognised as a holding midfielder who breaks up play.

“If there is one thing that I could say that I have improved on the most this season it would be trying to take the team up the pitch a bit with the ball,” he said.

“I think as a midfielder you always get labelled for always just passing it, keeping the ball moving and doing the dirty work. I don’t want to just be labelled as that.

“[Former Manchester City midfielder] Yaya Toure is the one I’ve studied.

“I think he was probably the best at that, recognising when to pass and play short balls. Also recognising when there was space, to step into it and drive the team up the pitch.”

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