RugbyU: Scarlets release North to join Saints

Wales winger George North will join Northampton Saints following this season after Welsh region Scarlets agreed to his release.

Scarlets said an agreement had been reached "between all parties" for the transfer and North will sign on for three years at Franklin's Gardens.

The 20-year-old will thus become the latest high-profile defection from the Welsh domestic game, joining the likes of fellow exiles Mike Phillips, James Hook and Gethin Jenkins, all currently plying their trade in France.

Centre Jamie Roberts and flanker Dan Lydiate are also expected to jump ship at the end of this season with wealthy Parisians Racing-Metro their destination.

North will join another Welshman, Paul James, in the English Premiership after the prop moved to Bath last year.

North, who made his debut for Wales at just 18 years of age, has already won 31 caps and is a near certainty for the June and July British Lions tour to Australia.

Scarlets chief executive Mark Davies admitted the Welsh region simply could not compete financially with the offers coming from abroad.

"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," he said.

"Taking that into account, we made George the very best offer we could.

"However, we have to fully understand and appreciate that George's quite unique value in the rugby marketplace, possibly inside Wales, but certainly outside Wales, is considerably greater than the Scarlets as an independent business can reach."

No figures have been released but it has been reported in some quarters that Saints paid around £200,000 ($300,000) to release North from his Scarlets contract.

It is a great coup for Northampton, who lost England wing Chris Ashton to Saracens last summer.

"He is an exceptional talent and one of the most formidable back-three attacking players in world rugby," said Saints chief executive Allan Robson.