North leaves Northampton rugby to return to Wales

Northampton's centre George North is tackled during the European Rugby Champions Cup match against Racing Metro January 24, 2015

George North will leave English Premiership side Northampton at the end of the season and return to Wales on a national dual contract, the Welsh Rugby Union announced on Wednesday.

The juggernaut wing, who has won 69 Wales caps and scored 30 tries and has also represented the British and Irish Lions, has agreed a deal from next term, the WRU announced.

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

"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."

Former Scarlets player North's return home is a major coup for Wales and their head coach Warren Gatland, who described the move as "fantastic".

"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," he said.

"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."

Northampton released their own statement confirming 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. North will play for either the Scarlets, Ospreys, Cardiff Blues or Dragons after he leaves Northampton.

"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 Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder.

North made six appearances for Northampton this season before suffering an injury to his posterior cruciate ligament. He has targeted the Premiership clash with Exeter Chiefs on December 23 for his return.

Welsh rugby chiefs last month announced changes to their international selection policy in an attempt to stem the exodus of talent from the country.

No player with fewer than 60 caps will be selected for Wales if they ply their trade outside of the country.

An exception to the rule is call-ups for uncapped players currently contracted outside of Wales -- to keep their eligibility a newly capped player will be required to return to Wales at the expiration of their deal.