George North: Ospreys and Wales centre in advanced talks to join Provence

George North
Provence could become George North's fourth club as a professional

George North is in advanced negotiations to join French club Provence next season, although no deal has officially been completed.

Ospreys coach Toby Booth says he understands North aims to seal his long-term future as the region struggle to keep the Wales centre.

The 31-year-old is out of contract at the end of 2023-24.

"George and I have had conversations around his future, but there is nothing to report yet on our side," said Booth.

Ospreys have said any bid to keep North will be hampered by financial constraints.

Reports in France suggest North would earn in excess of £300,000 next season with the second division club.

The Welsh team know they will be unable to match any big offers given the regional budgets will be reduced even further next season, from £5.2m this season to £4.5m.

Provence, who signed Wales and ex-Ospreys prop Tomas Francis in July, have ambitions of reaching the Top 14 and are currently third in France's ProD2.

"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," said Booth.

"I have no animosity towards a player trying to do what is right for him because it is a short career and that is what it is all about.

"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."

When asked whether Ospreys would offer North a contract or had to accept they could not afford him, Booth replied: "It's a difficult one because it's not as straightforward as that.

"It's not just about one player. You can just imagine what the conversations were like last year with what we had off contract.

"We have to get a squad of players and if you think about it from percentages you can't chew up so much money in one position or one person. You just can't.

"Would I love to get the Ospreys legends and keep them around? Of course I would, especially when you've got 40% injured.

"All of those players are part of that journey and unfortunately sometimes those journeys don't end as you'd like them to because you just can't end them.

"He's been proactive around what his options are and I completely get that. We have to be in a position to offer contracts and if those things are misaligned it's tough.

North is Wales' third most capped player with 118, behind only Alun Wyn Jones and Gethin Jenkins. This year, he became the first Welshman to play in four World Cup quarter-finals. He has also played three Tests for the British and Irish Lions.

He signed a two-year dual contract with Ospreys and the Welsh Rugby Union in September 2021.

It remains to be seen whether he is still in Warren Gatland's long-term plans, but the Wales head coach says that is in the player's own hands. North has indicated he wants to continue playing international rugby.

He would still be available for Wales if he moved to France because he has played far more than the 25 internationals currently required to be selected for the national side while playing domestic rugby outside Wales.

North started his career as a wing with Scarlets and then spent five seasons at Northampton before joining Ospreys in 2018.

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.