Saints stand firm in North saga

Wed, 27 Nov 2013 11:33
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Northampton Saints stood their ground in the wake of media reports regarding a possible investigation about the club releasing star wing George North.

Northampton Saints stood their ground in the wake of media reports regarding a possible investigation about the club releasing star wing George North to play for Wales outside the IRB international window.

The English media reported on Wednesday that the Saints could be fined by Premiership Rugby for releasing North to play against Australia on Saturday.

North, the 21-year-old British and Irish Lion, has a clause in his contract which allows him to be released for all Test matches and training camps, including those outside the official International Rugby Board window.

However, Premiership Rugby's policy, which has been agreed by the 12 clubs, states that no non-England qualified players should be released for those camps or matches.

According to the reports the matter will be investigated over the coming days, with the most likely outcome a fine for Saints.

Saints said, in reaction, that they have not done anything wrong.

"The Northampton Saints management has noted the media reports about a potential investigation of the club regarding George North and his playing for Wales outside the IRB window," the statement said.

"George is a world class player who in his short time at Franklin's Gardens has brought a great deal of excitement and quality, not just to the Saints but to the Premiership as a competition.

"When his signing was announced it was hailed in the media and by the league's hierarchy as a massive statement of intent by the club and a reflection of the competitive nature and high profile offered by the Premiership.

"Every player asks for specific conditions to be included in their agreements. This is not unusual in professional sport. In order to realise this rare opportunity of bringing a player like George to Franklin's Gardens we agreed to allow him to represent Wales if and when selected.

"The Saints management wants to make it clear that our agreement with George has not contravened any laws, rules or regulations.

"However when it was finalised the agreement included terms for his release to play international rugby which were outside Premiership Rugby board policy.

"George is a young man who is proud to represent his country. Indeed the club's management wants every player at the club to achieve the highest level they can, and wants every player to have the ambition to wear their respective national shirt.

"The club is also committed to adding depth to the playing squad, and working with someone of George's calibre has benefitted young, home-grown players like Jamie Elliott, Tom Collins and Howard Packman, all of whom have played first team rugby this season.

"The Saints management has sought to build a squad that can compete in every tournament. This involves both establishing a strong production line of local talent and bringing in world class players when they become available.

"Sometimes this requires compromise, and while we appreciate that we are outside Premiership Rugby board policy with this particular agreement we also believe that having George as a Northampton Saints player has benefitted both the club and the league as a whole."