North to leave Saints next summer as he opts to head back to Wales

George North will leave Saints at the end of the season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
George North will leave Saints at the end of the season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Saints have announced that George North will be leaving the club to return to Wales at the end of this season.

North's Northampton contract expires in the summer of 2018 and the Lions wing has taken the decision to return to his homeland, following recent discussions with the club and WRU representatives.

The 25-year-old moved to Saints from Scarlets in 2013 and a year later he helped Jim Mallinder's men to claim an Aviva Premiership and Challenge Cup double.

He has made a total of 80 appearances for Saints to date, scoring 35 tries.

But North, who is currently recovering from a knee injury, will now exit Franklin's Gardens next year.

“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 Saints boss 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.”

Saints did attempt to keep hold of North beyond this season.

Chief executive Mark Darbon said: "The club remains focussed on recruiting and retaining top quality talent and we made an appropriate offer for George to stay.

“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.”