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England v Belgium: Declan Rice set to captain Three Lions as he wins 50th cap



Declan Rice
Declan Rice made his England debut in 2019 having switched his international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland

Declan Rice says it will be a “pinch me” moment as he captains England on his 50th appearance in Tuesday night’s friendly against Belgium at Wembley.

The 25-year-old Arsenal midfielder has become a key figure for the Three Lions since making his debut in 2019.

He takes the captain’s armband, with Harry Kane and Kyle Walker out injured.

“On my 50th cap, to walk out at Wembley in front of my family and friends, it is a great honour – I’m a bit speechless,” Rice said.

“It is a pinch-me moment, it will be an honour. I was absolutely lost for words when [manager Gareth Southgate] said to me I was going to be captain.”

It is almost exactly five years since Rice made his England debut against the Czech Republic, having switched his international allegiance from the Republic of Ireland for whom he appeared on three occasions.

During that time he has helped England reach the final of the 2020 European Championship and the quarter-finals of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“I have grown so much as a player and person since I first came into the group,” he added.

“As time has gone on I’ve played more big games, more games at major tournaments. I have enjoyed every moment.”

Toney set to start as absentees mount

England boss Gareth Southgate has had to contend with numerous injury problems during the March international break.

Alongside Kane and Walker, Harry Maguire and Sam Johnstone are both out of Tuesday’s match while the likes of Bukayo Saka, Luke Shaw and Trent Alexander-Alexander Arnold are also among the absentees.

While that means others will be given their chance to stake their claim for this summer’s Euros in Germany, it is far from an ideal set of circumstances for the England boss.

“It is an incredible number who are unavailable to us,” Southgate said. “I haven’t experienced that before, but it means there are opportunities for other people.

“You can’t worry about what we haven’t got. You’ve got to move forward. There’s a lot of different reasons for those injuries.”

Southgate confirmed Jude Bellingham is fit after cramp forced him off against Brazil on Saturday, while forwards Cole Palmer and Ivan Toney, midfielder James Maddison and defender Jarrad Branthwaite will also come into contention.

Toney received his first England call-up since serving an eight-month suspension for breaching FA betting rules, and the Brentford striker will play for the first time since his debut exactly a year ago.

“Ivan will be involved in the game for sure,” Southgate added. “I have to say, with everything that’s happened, the original idea or plan for the week is a little bit different.

“We’re probably finding out about more players but that’s really helpful. To see all those players against high-level opposition will help us make better decisions moving forward.”

England to wear nameless shirts in second half

Harry Kane celebrates with Jack Grealish after scoring the winning goal against Switzerland in a friendly at Wembley in 2022
This is how the nameless shirts looked during the game against Switzerland in 2022

England will play without names on the back of their shirts during the second half, with the match dedicated as an Alzheimer’s Society International as part of the Football Association’s partnership with the charity.

The aim is to draw “attention to how people with dementia lose precious memories, even the names of their favourite football players”.

It is the second time England have done so, after the 2-1 win against Switzerland at Wembley in March 2022.

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Deontay Wilder: Ex-WBC world champion confident of Anthony Joshua fight



Former WBC world champion Deontay Wilder tells BBC Sport he is “90%” sure a fight with Anthony Joshua will happen in the future, as he prepares to face Zhilei Zhang on 1 June.

READ MORE: Wilder says Joshua fight will be revived with big win over Zhang

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Taulupe Faletau: Wales number eight set for Cardiff return



Taulupe Faletau back in training with Cardiff
Taulupe Faletau has played 14 games for Cardiff after joining from Bath in 2022

Cardiff and Wales number eight Taulupe Faletau is set to return to action after a six-month injury lay-off.

Faletau, 33, suffered a broken arm in Wales’ World Cup victory against Georgia in Nantes in October 2023 before missing this year’s Six Nations with a calf injury.

The British and Irish Lions Test star has since returned to Cardiff training.

Faletau is available for the United Rugby Championship (URC) trip to face Ulster on Friday night.

Faletau, who has played 104 times for Wales, returns to action with the summer tour to Australia on the horizon.

Head coach Warren Gatland has lost senior figures in Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric, George North, Dan Biggar, Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Webb to international retirement in the last 12 months.

In Faletau’s absence, Cardiff back-row duo Alex Mann and Mackenzie Martin have been capped by Wales, while Aaron Wainwright has filled the national number eight role.

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Ross Molony: Leinster locks signs for Bath Rugby on three-year contract from 2024-25



Ross Molony
Ross Molony has won four league titles and the European Champions Cup with Leinster

Bath have announced the signing of Leinster lock Ross Molony on a three-year contract.

The 29-year-old will join up with the Somerset club ahead of the 2024-25 season.

Molony has made 177 appearances for Leinster and has won four league titles and the European Champions Cup with the Dublin club.

Leinster are currently five points clear at the top of the United Rugby Championship table.

They face Premiership leaders Northampton Saints on Saturday, May 4, for a place in a third Champions Cup final in a row.

“Ross is a true professional and his journey in rugby is a testament to this,” director of rugby Johann van Graan told the club’s website.external-link

“His work ethic and leadership are some of his key characteristics and I believe he will play a huge part in our journey in the next number of years.”

Bath are currently second in the Premiership, five points behind Northampton.

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