WALES wing George North will join Northampton this summer on a three-year deal.
The Scarlets announced they have agreed to release North a year early from his contract to move to Franklin’s Gardens. The Scarlets say an agreement “between all parties” was reached late last Friday.
North, 20, will become the latest high-profile Wales international player to quit the Principality when he departs for Northampton. The likes of his RBS Six Nations title-winning colleagues Mike Phillips, James Hook and Gethin Jenkins all currently play in France, while centre Jamie Roberts and flanker Dan Lydiate are expected to join wealthy Parisians Racing Metro this summer.
North will follow prop Paul James into the Aviva Premiership. James moved to Bath last year.
North has won 31 caps and is rated a certainty to go to Australia with the British and Irish Lions in June and July. Scarlets chief executive Mark Davies said: “Everyone at the Scarlets will wish George the very best in his future career now that it is clear he will be playing his club rugby in Northampton for the next few years. Despite our desire to retain all our internationals within the region, we have to balance our available resource over the need to sustain a 50-deep player squad that can continue to compete during international periods. Taking that into account, we made George the very best offer we could.
“We are obviously massively disappointed to be losing a player of George’s world-class quality. The last few weeks have been made increasingly difficult with considerable added pressure on George, those close to him and the Scarlets with the continuing level of intrusion, speculation and debate from outside the region surrounding George’s future with us.
“We firmly believe that this situation illustrates that our policy of privacy for individuals is the correct and proper position for our business to take at all times.”
Northampton’s interest in North first surfaced shortly after the end of this season’s Six Nations Championship. A row subsequently broke out between the Welsh Rugby Union and the Welsh regions after the WRU opted to bring North’s situation into a public arena. Although no figure has been released, it is thought that Northampton might have paid £200,000-plus to secure North’s early release from the Scarlets. North has so far not commented on the move.