England manager Gareth Southgate has praised the "tremendous leadership qualities" of Declan Rice ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Hungary.
The 22-year-old was rested for the comprehensive 5-0 win over Andorra on Saturday night, but is expected to return to the heart of midfield as Southgate strengthens his side for what should be a tougher test at Wembley.
Rice has already been capped 26 times by England after switching his international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland in 2019, while he's also West Ham's current on-field captain - now that Mark Noble's playing time is reducing because of his age.
Many have observed Rice's dedication and determination to improve both as a player and leader, and it was a subject Southgate addressed in his latest pre-match press conference.
“I was talking to Dec about how I’ve viewed him this season and how he’s felt himself going back to his club having experienced the biggest possible matches,” Southgate said. “Until you are in those moments, you don’t know what that’s going to feel like.
"Even though he is a young player, he has got tremendous leadership qualities"- Southgate speaking about Declan Rice
“There’s a lot that’s going to improve and change and evolve as these young players continue to get better.
“The interesting thing for me is that I spoke to Declan when he was making the transfer [in international allegiance] from Ireland [in February 2019] and we had seen things in him which we believed could be helpful to us as a country.
“You could tell his mentality was one where he wanted to learn and improve and test himself."
Southgate further alluded to Rice's ability to take on instructions and learn from each passing game, adding that his maturity was a key factor in his ongoing development.
“He is a real sponge for tactical information and observations on his game and is desperate to be the best he can possibly be," he added.
“Even though he is a young player, he has got tremendous leadership qualities. He is captaining his club [West Ham] at an incredibly young age. So you can see all the signs of what might be possible.
“There are the experiences he has been through now. But also he is getting older and more mature and broader with his outlook on everything — and because of his mentality he is going to improve even more.”
Rice's development has likely been furthered by West Ham's continued improvement, while he's also been exposed to playing continental football through the club's involvement in the Europa League group stages.