Provence will become George North’s fourth club as a professional
Wales centre George North has confirmed he will join French second division club Provence next season.
The 31-year-old is out of contract with Ospreys at the end of 2023-24.
Ospreys admitted they would struggle to keep the British & Irish Lion due to financial constraints.
North said: “I want to say how excited myself and my family are about joining Provence next season and I look forward to starting an amazing journey together.”
Provence head coach, former Argentina prop Mauricio Reggiardo, earmarked North as his marquee signing as the club bids to reach the Top 14.
Reports in France suggest North will earn in excess of £300,000 for the next two seasons with the club who are currently second in ProD2, and who signed North’s Wales and Ospreys teammate Tomas Francis in July.
Provence have described the capture of North as a “landmark moment” in the history of the club.
Chairman Denis Philipon said: “We met in George North a boy of incredible class, who immediately showed interest in the club’s project. His motivation is enormous.
“We are obviously very happy that he is joining us and we hope that he will thrill our supporters. His presence should allow us to take a very important step in our progress.
“We hope through his talent, professionalism, knowledge of the very high level and his popularity, he will contribute to positioning Provence Rugby as one of the major players in French rugby of tomorrow.”
The Welsh club said they were unable to match any big offers for North given that regional budgets will be reduced even further next season, from £5.2m this season to £4.5m.
But they will be unhappy at the French club’s timing given clubs are not allowed to speak to potential signings until the new year.
Head coach Toby Booth said previously he had no animosity towards a player leaving for a big-money move, particularly given the financial state of Welsh regional rugby.
“We know where we are in this whole arrangement and the backdrop of Welsh rugby is very difficult to keep your most high-profile players who earn a lot of money and deserve to earn the money they do,” he said.
“If we can’t do it due to the constraints we are under, then all the best. We will always try to find solutions to keep our best players, but tough decisions have to be made on both sides and he needs to look after his family so I am all good for that.”
‘It’s George’s call’ – Warren Gatland on North’s future
North is Wales’ third most capped player with 118, behind only Alun Wyn Jones and Gethin Jenkins, and will still be available for Warren Gatland.
This year, he became the first Welshman to play in four World Cup quarter-finals and has indicated he wants to continue playing international rugby.
There has been an exodus of international players leaving Wales with Gareth Anscombe and Liam Williams joining clubs in Japan and Leigh Halfpenny and Rhys Patchell heading to New Zealand.