George North move shows ‘harsh reality’ of economic constraints – Toby Booth
05 Dec 20232 minute read
Ospreys boss Toby Booth has reflected on the “harsh reality” of Welsh rugby’s economic climate after French second division club Provence swooped to sign Wales star George North.
The 31-year-old Ospreys centre, who has won 119 caps and scored 47 tries for Wales, heads to southern France on a two-year deal next summer, where his new team-mates will include current Wales prop Tomas Francis.
North, who will remain available to Wales head coach Warren Gatland after the Provence switch, follows World Cup colleagues Francis, Dan Biggar, Henry Thomas and Will Rowlands in joining French clubs.
Two other World Cup performers – Liam Williams and Gareth Anscombe – are with Japanese teams Kubota Spears and Tokyo Suntory Sungoliath, respectively. They will be unavailable for this season’s Six Nations.
“It is really regrettable when you lose top talent like George, and we will be disappointed to see him go,” head coach Booth told the Ospreys’ official website.
“Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality we are encountering in Welsh rugby at this time.
“The economic constraints we are currently facing mean that while we strive to retain our premium talent, finances mean that sometimes we will be unable to.
“Moving forward, we are focusing on maintaining balanced squad depth that can uphold the standards we set for the Ospreys.
“With that being said, we understand George’s decision to leave and wish him and his family all the best at Provence.”
Wales’ four professional regions – Ospreys, Dragons, Cardiff and Scarlets – will see reduced budgets of £4.5million per team next season.
The Gallagher Premiership salary cap, meanwhile, will rise to £6.4million for 2024-25, and Top 14 French clubs currently operate on a £9.2million cap.