Wales’ financial worries continue as George North set to be lost to France’s second-tier – report

Colin Newboult
George North on the charge for Wales against Barbarians in 2023.

George North on the charge for Wales against Barbarians in 2023.

Test centurion George North is set to leave Welsh rugby at the end of the season and sign a contract in the French second-tier.

The centre has been linked with a move to France over recent weeks and, according to Sud Ouest, a deal with Pro D2 outfit Provence has been completed.

North will reportedly earn over £300,000 per year at his new club, showing both the ambition of the French club but also the financial struggles within Welsh rugby.

Unable to compete

North’s current head coach at the Ospreys, Toby Booth, spoke recently about the difficulties they face in keeping their top talent in Wales.

“We understand with good players that people will be interested,” Booth said. “The Welsh market will be of interest to big-spending teams because they know we can’t afford to keep big players on big salaries.

“We have a budget of £5.2m this season and that is going down to £4.5m next season so every region is still staring down the barrel of a gun and I don’t think this will be the last of it either.”

North will remain eligible for Wales, given that he is over 25-cap threshold required for foreign-based players, but it will be a blow for Warren Gatland if he is not playing at the highest level of club rugby.

Provence are currently third in the Pro D2 and could well be in the Top 14 by the time of North’s arrival but, if not, then that could hamper his international chances.

North on retirement

The centre is only 31 but has more miles on the clock than most having made his Test debut as a teenager back in 2010.

North was asked earlier this month whether he will follow the likes of Leigh Halfpenny and Dan Biggar into international retirement, but that is currently not on his mind.

“I felt like I was really happy with my performance in the World Cup,” he said.

“(I am) still competing, so for me, I am very much still wanting to play and compete for that jersey. It is still a huge part of me and a big driver for me.

“If the boss (Wales head coach Gatland) keeps picking me, I will keep doing the best I can.”

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