Northampton Saints winger George North says that he still intends to play in every Welsh International fixture, despite his club being hit with a £60,000 fine for allowing him to feature in a Test against Australia last month.
Saints were handed the punishment yesterday by a Premiership Rugby disciplinary panel because the match fell outside the International Rugby Board's designated Test window.
However, North has a clause in his contract which allows him to play in every Welsh International, and the 21-year-old is still keen to represent his country whenever possible:
"Whenever I get the chance to pull the jersey on it is a massive honour and if they say, 'George, we want you to play', then obviously I'm going to play," he told several national newspapers.
"Thank goodness the Saints are so understanding with me and allow me to pursue my international career.
"I have the utmost respect for the club and I back them 100 per cent for giving me this opportunity to pursue my Welsh career but also to play top rugby week to week.
"I came to the club because I wanted to improve myself as a player and I've enjoyed every second of it."
Northampton Saints have been fined £60,000 by a Premiership Rugby disciplinary panel for allowing star winger George North to play for Wales against Australia last month.
The fixture fell outside the International Rugby Board's designated Test window, meaning that North shouldn't have been released by his club.
However, the 21-year-old has a clause in his Saints contract which permits him to feature in all Wales Test matches.
Northampton admitted the breach and will not appeal the sanction.
England star Tom Wood has agreed a new contract with Northampton Saints, the club has announced.
The flanker is one of five forward to have penned new deals at Franklin's Gardens.
Lock Christian Day, back-rowers Sam Dickinson and Ben Nutley, and hooker Mike Haywood have also signed fresh terms.
Saints Director of Rugby Jim Mallinder says that the new deals will send out a statement of intent to other Aviva Premiership sides:
“We’re delighted that all five players have signed new contracts with us.
“They have all grown and developed in their time with us and have put in plenty of hard work on and off the field.
“Our aim is to have as good a squad as we possibly can, and this starts with making sure we re-sign the quality players we have here already.
“It is a big statement for both the club and the players that these agreements have been done so early.”
Northampton Saints stars George North and Alex Corbisiero have been named in the International Rugby Players Association World XV.
The pair have been picked by their fellow players, and are the only men to make the side from the Aviva Premiership.
Unsurprisingly, there are seven players from World Champions New Zealand named in the team, whilst North's Wales teammates Leigh Halfpenny and Sam Warburton and Adam Jones were also selected.
IRPA Players' World XV of the Year:
15 - Leigh Halfpenny (Wales), 14 - Ben Smith (New Zealand), 13 - Conrad Smith (New Zealand), 12 - Wesley Fofana (France), 11 - George North (Wales), 10 - Aaron Cruden (New Zealand), 9 - Aaron Smith (New Zealand)
1 - Alex Corbisiero (England), 2 - Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa), 3- Adam Jones (Wales), 4 - Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), 5 - Sam Whitelock (New Zealand), 6 - Liam Messam (New Zealand), 7 - Sam Warburton (Wales), 8 - Kieran Read (New Zealand)
Northampton Saints have released a statement regarding a potential fine for releasing George North to play for Wales in this Saturday's clash with Australia.
"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.
"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.
"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."
Northampton Saints could face a fine for allowing George North to play for Wales in this weekend's match against Australia.
North has a clause in his Saints contract which allows him to play in all Wales Test matches, but Saturday's game falls outside the official window for autumn internationals.
Premiership Rugby will now investigate Northampton's decision to release him.
Northampton Saints stars Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood, Lee Dickson and Ben Foden have all retained their starting spots for this weekend's final autumn international against New Zealand at Twickenham.
The quintet all played key parts in last Saturday's 31-12 victory over Argentina and have been selected again by Head Coach Stuart Lancaster for the showdown with the All Blacks.
Saints skipper Hartley will earn his 50th cap for England in the fixture, whilst Norfolk-born brothers Tom and Ben Youngs have been named as replacements.
England team to face New Zealand:
Mike Brown (Harlequins), Chris Ashton (Saracens), Joel Tomkins (Saracens), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester), Ben Foden (Northampton Saints), Owen Farrell (Saracens), Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints)
Joe Marler (Harlequins), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), D Cole (Leicester Tigers), Joe Launchbury (London Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Tom Wood (Northampton Saints), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins, captain), Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Matt Mullan (London Wasps), David Wilson (Bath), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers), Ben Morgan (Gloucester), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers), Toby Flood (Leicester Tigers), Alex Goode (Saracens)
Northampton Saints centre George Pisi has been given a six-week ban following a tackle while playing for Samoa against Ireland on Saturday.
Pisi was cited for a dangerous tackle on Ireland wing Tommy Bowe during Samoa's 40 points to 9 defeat in Dublin.
The ban means he'll miss three Premiership matches, plus Saints' European double-header against Leinster.
Meanwhile Saints and England prop Alex Corbisiero has been ruled out of Saturday's match against New Zealand after a reoccurrence of a knee injury.
The 25-year-old was rated as a doubt and has now failed to sufficiently prove his fitness.
Northampton Saints' match against Gloucester could be a chance for a few new faces to impress.
It's likely to be youthful team that steps out in the Anglo-Welsh cup tomorrow while their team-mates are away on international duty.
Earlier this week the Saints, including youngster Ben Nutley, took a break from training to try some go-karting at one of the town's circuits.
Norfolk-born Ben Youngs has been ruled out of England's autumn international against Argentina on Saturday after failing a fitness test.
The Leicester Tigers man has been suffering with a hip injury and has been deemed to not be fit enough to take his place on the replacements bench for the clash with the Pumas.
24-year-old Youngs has been replaced by Harlequins scrum-half Danny Care.