Saints sign former NFL hopeful Smith

Northampton Saints beat Bath in the Premiership final in June [Getty Images]

Premiership champions Northampton Saints have signed George Smith after the lock walked away from the chance of forging an career in American football.

The 22-year-old, who stands 6ft 8in (203cm) and weighs in at 138kg, was among the NFL’s international player pathway intake earlier this year alongside ex-Wales star Louis Rees-Zammit.

Smith was in the United States from late January before being tempted back to rugby and the English game with Saints in April, having played in the second division with Coventry up until his decision to try to earn an NFL contract.

“I was out in America but it just wasn’t really for me,” Smith told the club website.

“I wanted to pursue rugby more than American Football. Shieldsy [Paul Shields, Saints head of recruitment and retention] rang me up asking if I wanted to come in, train with the boys and see if it was the right fit.

“It felt like home from day one.”

Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson said Smith’s “superpower” is his combination of height and ability to “move really quickly”.

“The guy is unbelievably physical,” said Dowson.

“When he first arrived, we tested him and his power-per-kilogram scores were incredible – the best we’ve seen in years.

“He is a bright lad and got stuck in from the word go. We’ve got someone who is physical, smart and can play the game.”

News of Smith’s contract comes in the same week that hooker Sam Matavesi has decided to leave the club and Toulon confirmed the signing of England flanker Lewis Ludlam after his earlier Saints exit.

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