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George North could start at centre against France

George North could start at centre for Wales against France, with Warren Gatland facing a midfield injury crisis.

Scott Williams, Jonathan Davies and Ashley Beck are all unavailable, leaving Gatland the choice between the versatile James Hook and North - usually a winger - to partner Jamie Roberts.

George North played on the wing against Ireland - but could be at centre against France. Credit: PA

Roberts has said: "George is a fantastic player. His physical attributes are incredible, and he is a 17-stone Shane Williams.

"His turn of pace is amazing, and his agility is frightening. He is a world-class talent and we just need to make sure we get him in space and get the ball in his hands."

Second row Luke Charteris and flanker Justin Tipuric are pushing for starting places at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night, while half-backs Mike Phillips and Rhys Priestland have come under pressure for their performances in the 26-3 defeat to Ireland.

Northampton fined £60,000 for releasing North

George North scores a try for Wales in their 30-26 defeat to Australia Credit: PA

Northampton Saints have been fined £60,000 after releasing George North for Wales duty outside the International Rugby Board's (IRB) designated Test window, Premiership Rugby has confirmed.

The Aviva Premiership club allowed North to feature in Wales' 30-26 defeat at the hands of Australia on November 30, which came after the end of the autumn international period.

Premiership clubs have an agreement that only England players can be released for matches outside the IRB window, but North ensured he would be available for all Wales fixtures when he negotiated his summer move from the Scarlets to Franklin's Gardens.

Saints appeared before a three-man panel on Wednesday, and were handed the fine after admitting to a breach of Premiership Rugby Board policy.

Northampton Saints have decided not to appeal against the sanction.

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George North's Northampton deal follows WRU/Scarlets row

Today's news that George North has completed his move to the Northampton Saints brings to an end speculation over his future that began when the Welsh Rugby Union accused the Scarlets' management of trying to sell the 20 year old without his knowledge.

In a statement two weeks ago, the WRU claimed that the "Scarlets opened discussions to transfer the player with clubs outside Wales and the UK late in 2012."

The union said that "George North informed the WRU shortly after the Wales v Ireland RBS 6 Nations international on February 2nd 2013 that he had then been told of the transfer proposal."

Scarlets: We offered North 'the best deal we could'

The Chief Executive of the Scarlets, Mark Davies says that they made George North 'the very best offer' they could.

In a statement on the club's website he said that his value was "considerably greater than the Scarlets as an independent business can reach.”

Everyone at the Scarlets will wish George the very best in his future career now that it is clear he will be playing his club rugby in Northampton for the next few years.

Despite our desire to retain all our internationals within the region, we have to balance our available resource over the need to sustain a 50-deep player squad that can continue to compete during international periods.

– Mark Davies, Chief Executive of the Scarlets

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WRU: We hope talks can be held 'around the board table'

The WRU say that they hope that discussions with Regional Rugby Wales can be held 'around the board table.'

Their statement comes after the body that represents the four Welsh rugby regions said they would not attend talks with the WRU.

The WRU welcomes the desire of the Regional Organisations to continue discussions on how best to secure a winning future for professional rugby in Wales and retain the best Welsh talent.

The WRU will outline, to the four Regional Organisations, a strategy for the professional game in Wales and would welcome input from all four Regional organisations.

The Board of the WRU, for the third time, offers the four Regional Organisations the opportunity to address them.

– Welsh Rugby Union statement

Regional Rugby Wales refuse talks with WRU

The group that represents the four Welsh rugby regions has pulled out of talks with the WRU. Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, Stuart Gallagher from Regional Rugby Wales said that he was embarrassed by the propaganda coming from the WRU.

Gallagher said that they had now decided not to go to talks with the Welsh Rugby Union as 'communication has broken down.'

He said that the body was now looking to take the disagreement with the WRU to independent arbitration.

Reports: Scarlets' George North signs for Northampton

George North has already won 31 caps for Wales Credit: David Davies/PA Archive

Wales Online and the Telegraph are reporting that Scarlets and Wales star George North has signed for English Premiership side Northampton Saints.

The 20-year-old winger's transfer has sparked a major row between the WRU and Wales' four regions.

The union accused the Scarlets of trying to sell North behind his back, a claim which the Llanelli club denied.

The WRU has called talks with the regions over the possible introduction of central contracts, to try to keep players in Wales.

Senior Wales players including Mike Phillips, James Hook and Luke Charteris have left to play their club rugby in France in recent years.

Read More: WRU and regions at war over George North transfer

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