George North: Why his return to Welsh regional rugby matters

George North will return to Welsh regional rugby next season after five years with Aviva Premiership side Northampton Saints. Stu Forster/Getty Images

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) has upped its efforts to ensure homegrown talent remains in the regional game. From National Dual Contracts -- deals in which it contributes 60 percent of a player's wage -- to the scrapping of 'Gatland's Law', and a new selection policy that will require those with less than 60 Test caps to play their club rugby in Wales or face ineligibility for the national side, the message has been clear.

Big names, including Sam Warburton, Jonathan Davies, Alun Wyn Jones and, most recently, Leigh Halfpenny, have been tied down to NDCs by the WRU, and Gloucester's Ross Moriarty is set to join that list when his contract with the Aviva Premiership side expires in the summer.

But what makes George North's return to the Welsh regional game next season such a coup for the WRU is that he did not need to head home to circumvent Wales' new selection policy. He already has 69 caps for his country, and is therefore exempt.

Once Halfpenny was run out of Toulon so unceremoniously in the summer, his return to Wales seemed inevitable. But North was very much wanted in Northampton.

A player in his prime at 25, he has made 80 appearances for Saints, scoring 35 tries, since his arrival from Scarlets in 2013. The Franklin's Garden outfit were keen for that to continue, Saints chief executive Mark Darbon has confirmed. An "appropriate offer" was made to keep him in the English Midlands, but that was spurned.

Neither was North tempted by the riches of France or the sheer talent of some of the Premiership's best sides. He wanted to return home.

Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has spoken of his concern about Scottish players heading abroad after seeing Finn Russell announce that he will be leaving Glasgow at the end of the season.

Townsend -- who stated that Scottish rugby will 'suffer' if more players follow suit -- said that he envied Ireland, who have had success in recent years in part due to the fact that virtually all of their squad play their club rugby on the Emerald Isle. That is something the WRU wants to emulate.

The game in Wales has huge potential to grow, especially with the likes of Halfpenny and North plying their trade in Wales. With two high-profile internationals tying their futures down in Wales the pressure on Rhys Webb to reverse his own decision to leave will only grow, while stars of tomorrow might think twice about turning their back on the regional game.

And that can only help the Welsh national side -- its stars will be playing alongside or against each other week in week out. That is going to create a stronger sense of camaraderie around the national side -- more togetherness, more determination to deliver for their country.

We do not know yet whether North will head to the Ospreys, Blues, Dragons or return to his former stomping ground of Llanelli and re-join the Scarlets. But whoever does secure his signature will pick up a Welsh Lion in the prime of his career -- and the WRU has one of its biggest stars back at home.