North heading for Northampton
Wales wing agrees three-year deal with the Saints to move from the Scarlets
George North of Scarlets runs past Dan Lydiate of Newport-Gwent Dragons in a recent Pro12 match. Both players are expected to leave their clubs this summer with North agreeing a deal with Northampton. Photograph: Huw Evans/Inpho
Northampton were tonight celebrating one of rugby’s biggest transfer coups in the professional era after signing Wales star George North.
North will take up a three-year contract this summer, by which time he is likely to have featured for the British and Irish Lions during their three-test Australia tour.
North has won 31 caps — he made his Wales debut as an 18-year-old in November 2010 — and a move to Northampton from the Scarlets had been rumoured since the end of this season’s Six Nations Championship more than three weeks ago.
But he also recently found himself at the centre of a furious row between the Welsh Rugby Union and Regional Rugby Wales, umbrella organisation for Wales’ four professional teams.
The WRU accused the Scarlets of trying to actively offload North with a year of his contract left, which would mean them securing a probable six-figure transfer fee from any new employer.
In response, RRW said they were “astonished” by the WRU’s allegations. Scarlets chief executive Mark Davies said tonight the region had made 20-year-old North “the very best offer we could” but also claimed he held a “quite unique place” in rugby union’s marketplace.
Although no figures have been released, it is likely that Saints will pay the Scarlets around €240,000 to seal North’s early contractual release.
North, himself, is likely to command an annual salary in excess of €250,000 at Franklin’s Gardens.
And he becomes Saints’ latest high-profile recruit for next term, following England prop Alex Corbisiero and Samoa international scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i, who will move to Northampton from London Irish and the Ospreys, respectively.
“George is an outstanding talent and we are looking forward to him being a part of our squad for at least the next three years,” Saints rugby director Jim Mallinder said.
“Despite still being at the start of his career, he has shown repeatedly that he has the ability and temperament to succeed at the highest level of the game, and we believe that he will play a big role as we look to take the next steps in our development.”
And Northampton chief executive Allan Robson added: “We have worked very hard over recent years to put Saints into a strong and sustainable financial position where we can build a squad that includes world-class players and has credible prospects for silverware.
“We are determined to bring success to Franklin’s Gardens, and signing players like George, Kahn Fotuali’i and Alex Corbisiero — all of whom are regarded as being among the best in their positions anywhere in the game — is a very important part of that.
“Over recent weeks there have been plenty of negotiations between ourselves, the Scarlets management and George’s representatives, and we believe that we have come to an agreement which is in the best interests of both clubs and the player himself.”
North will become the latest high-profile Wales international player to quit the Principality.
The likes of his 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.