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14-Nov-2020, 11:16 pm

'Mount criticism is very harsh, he's a top talent' - Rice defends 'driven' England team-mate

Mason Mount England 2020-21

Declan Rice has defended his "driven" England team-mate Mason Mount, insisting the criticism he has received is "very harsh".

The Aston Villa star impressed on his first start for England, providing an assist and earning the man of the match award during a 3-0 friendly victory over Wales, but was subsequently dropped for a UEFA Nations' League doubleheader against Belgium and Denmark.

Mount returned to the starting XI aheadof Grealish, and although the Chelsea playmaker scored in the 2-1 victory over Belgium, he was ineffective in the 1-0 defeat against Denmark, leading to question marks over Southgate's selection policy.

Mount dismissed talk of being 'teacher's pet' in the squad prior to the 3-0 win over Ireland on Thursday, telling reporters:“I’m a player that wants to do their best for the team and work hard. And maybe people take that the wrong way, I don’t know.

“I’m not one to really look too much into social media and that side of it. I know it’s big in football now, especially when the fans are not at the stadium.

"It doesn’t really bother me too much."

Southgateincluded both men in his line up as England beat Ireland in their latest friendly outing, and he is now under pressure to hand Grealish his first competitive minutes away at Belgium on Sunday.

Rice doesn't believe Mount deserves to have his quality questioned after proving himself at both club and international level, having played alongside the midfielder since their days in Chelsea's youth academy.

Asked if the social media scrutiny the Chelsea talisman finds himself under has been discussed in thedressing room, the West Ham star told a pre-match press conference:“No, we don’t speak about it but I think it is very harsh. I witness it when we train here and I have trained with him since he was a kid so I know what his mentality is like.

"I know how hard-working and driven he is so it is no surprise that Gareth and Frank pick him. If you give any Premier League manager a chance to pick him, they will pick him because as an individual, he is a top talent -so definitely I think the criticism is very harsh.”

Rice added on the prospect of Mount and Grealish playing in the same team on a more regular basis:"If you look at Jack and you look at Mason, they are playing in two different areas of the pitch.

"Mason at Chelsea is playing as an attacking eight and Jack at Villa is playing off the left. I think you all saw the other night that they can play together, I am sure.

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