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George North to leave Northampton at the end of the season

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George North will leave Northampton at the end of this season and return to Wales on a national dual contract.

The juggernaut wing, who has won 69 Wales caps and scored 30 tries, has agreed a deal from next term, the Welsh Rugby Union announced on its official Twitter feed.

Northampton released their own statement confirming 25-year-old North’s departure. It is not known at this stage which of the four Welsh regions he will join.

National dual contracts are 60 per cent funded by the WRU, with the player’s region paying the rest.

In a statement released by the WRU, North said: “As a proud Welshman, I am excited to be heading back to Wales and to have signed a NDC.

“I feel that the time is right and the opportunity to sign a NDC, with the benefits that come with it and the support it provides from the national squad set-up, was a great option for me.

“I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be part of Northampton Saints the last four years, and I have loved every minute of my time there.

“I am excited to see what we can achieve this season, and I will be putting everything I have into helping the squad fulfil our potential this year. I would like to thank everyone at the Saints, especially all of the supporters.”

Northampton Saints v Saracens -  Champions Cup

Former Scarlets player North’s return home is a major coup for Wales and their head coach Warren Gatland.

Gatland said: “It is fantastic that George is returning to Wales on a national dual contract.

“At just 25, George is in the prime of his career, and signing an NDC, with all the playing and non-playing benefits associated with it, will allow him to flourish.

“It is great for the game here in Wales to see a player of George’s stature and reputation return home to play his domestic rugby.

Wales v Ireland - RBS Six Nations

“In the coming weeks and months, we will work with George to determine which of the four regions has the best playing environment to suit him and for him to commit to and join ahead of the 2018/19 season.”

North will play for either the Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues or Dragons after he leaves Northampton.

North, who toured Australia in 2013 and New Zealand this year with the British and Irish Lions, is among the most sought-after players in northern hemisphere rugby.

London Irish v Northampton Saints - Aviva Premiership

He is currently sidelined due to a knee injury, missing Wales’ four autumn Tests, but hopes to return to action just before Christmas.

Saints rugby director Jim Malllinder said in a statement released by the club: “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.

“He will leave with our full support and best wishes for the future.

“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 will be greatly missed, both on and off the field.”

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Topics:
Wales Rugby
British & Irish Lions
George North
Aviva Premiership
Rugby Union

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