10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
According to the newspaper, Russell admits his notion that Gwent fans as a whole would get behind the new venture was ill-conceived. He also proposed Gwent Rugby Ltd be absorbed into Newport RFC.
He said, "Almost from the outset, Tony Brown, together with certain other directors of Newport RFC Limited, have opposed any of the progress required for the success of Gwent Rugby Limited in protest against the name Gwent and, later, Gwent Dragons.
"Furthermore, an analysis of the sales to date of Gwent Dragons season tickets shows that only a small percentage of the sales have been made to rugby followers who were not season ticket holders of Newport RFC last season.
"My initial belief that the sporting public of Gwent would welcome, and support, the notion of a top-class rugby side representing the whole region of Gwent and playing out of Rodney Parade was ill-conceived.
"My efforts to retain a Gwent identity in the face of a sustained campaign to the contrary by all concerned with Newport RFC have been undermined by the proportionate lack of season ticket sales to rugby followers living outside the Newport area (Ebbw Vale area excepted).
"These shortfalls are at odds with the business plan in place for Gwent Rugby Limited, which is dependent upon widespread support for the entire Gwent region.
"As a director of Gwent Rugby Club, I am under an absolute duty of good faith to ensure the commercial viability and success of the new company.
"It is now my strong view, given the circumstances, that such viability and success can best be achieved if the infrastructure of Gwent Dragons is subsumed into the existing operations of Newport RFC.
"This being the case, I have come to the conclusion that I have no constituency which allows me to continue to pursue my aim."
Russell will now consult fellow Vale board members, including brother Paul, about who will replace him as their representative on the Gwent board. His resignation brings to an end a turbulent relationship with Newport benefactor Brown, who was stopped from entering Eugene Cross Park during the 2001-2002 season.
As the regional debates progressed, Brown and Russell were the first to do a joint-club deal. But Brown resigned from the Gwent board on August 5 having earlier vowed not to fund the new side and Russell has now joined him on the sidelines.
(Report courtest of The Western Mail.)