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.
The reaction of fans to the news that Marcus Russell has left, Tony Brown is back on board, albeit in a supporting rather than hands-on role, and that the team is to be known as Newport & Gwent Dragons will be of huge interest. Will fans who support Gwent clubs other than Newport buy into the concept?
Or will they cede their stake in the new entity to those who campaigned long and hard for Gwent Dragons to also carry the name Newport?
The vitriol that accompanied that campaign may leave a lingering bad taste in the mouths of those who thought they were going to support a Gwent regional team.
While those issues remain hot topics, Ruddock is determined he, his players and the rest of the Dragons' employees will continue to emphasise their regional purpose.
"The fact is that we have fully embraced the regional concept," said Ruddock. "Losing Marcus is a sad event, as was losing Tony Brown's input earlier in the scheme of things.
"It's a pity they have not been able to work together because Marcus and Tony have strong qualities. But life goes on for myself, the rest of the coaching and management staff and the players."
Much of the reasoning behind the U-turn on the Dragons' naming issue has come about because of poor season-ticket sales.
But, as they go into tonight's clash, Ruddock's message to the players is that no amount of politicking can compensate for a lack of style and ambition on the field.
"The fact is that we need to establish from day one that we are a competitive force that plays an attractive brand of rugby," said Ruddock.
"We have an inner belief in ourselves as a group and will be doing our utmost to make a success of ourselves."
On the naming issue, Ruddock said, "As we are playing at Rodney Parade, it is logical to have Newport in the name, but it is also imperative that the regional aspect is reflected by having Gwent in there too."
(Gareth Roberts - The Western Mail)