Northampton Saints have confirmed that wing George North will leave the club at the end of the 2017/18 season in order to return to Wales.
Following recent conversations with the club and WRU representatives, the 25-year-old Wales international and British & Irish Lion feels it is the right time for him to return to Wales and sign a National Dual Contract.
“While we are disappointed to lose a player of George’s quality we respect and understand his decision to move back to Wales to be closer to home,” said Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder. “He will leave with our full support and best wishes for the future.
“I know how difficult a decision this has been for George, but in the end the emotional pull of settling back in Wales outweighed his desire to remain in Northampton and we respect that.
“I remember him joining the club almost five years ago as someone with an enormous talent and potential to be a really top class international. Since then he has developed into a world-class player and a very popular member of the club. He’ll be greatly missed both on and off the field.
“I have no doubt that for the rest of the season George will put all his energy into firstly rehabilitating from his current knee injury as quickly as possible and then ensuring Saints have a strong second half of the season.”
The wing made six appearances for the club this season before suffering an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament requiring six to eight weeks rehabilitation. North has targeted the club’s Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs on Saturday 23 December for his return.
“The club remains focussed on recruiting and retaining top quality talent and we made an appropriate offer for George to stay,” said Saints Chief Executive Mark Darbon.
“We have Dan Biggar joining us next season, and have plans to further strengthen our backline, and the squad more broadly, over the coming months.”
Joining from Scarlets in 2013 North has made a total of 80 club appearances scoring 35 tries. In his first season the wing collected Premiership and European Champions Cup winners medals. North was also toured Australia with the British & Irish Lions in 2013 – an achievement he would repeat in New Zealand in 2017.
“This has been an incredibly hard decision,” said North who since joining Saints has earned 38 of his 69 caps for Wales.
“Saints have developed me as a player and stuck by me through thick and thin, so it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to move on. I love playing for Northampton Saints and am excited by the potential of the squad that is being assembled but, as a proud Welshman, I felt that now is the right time to move back home despite the compelling offer Saints made me.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of this great club for the last four years. I have loved every minute of my time here and I am excited to see what we can achieve this season. I will be putting everything I have into helping the squad fulfil our potential this year in the highly competitive Aviva Premiership, and I will sorely miss Franklin’s Gardens in the future.
“I would like to thank the squad, coaches, medical team, support staff and especially all of the supporters who have made my time at Northampton Saints so memorable.”