THE DRAGONS can breathe fire again on and off the field after a last-minute deal was struck between Newport and the Welsh Rugby Union to safeguard regional rugby in Gwent.

Liquidation was a very real possibility, but the region has been saved, Newport benefactor Tony Brown backing it with additional funds until 2006.

Brown and Martyn Hazell will join with WRU chairman David Pickering and general manager Steve Lewis to form a new four-man board, Pickering acting as non-voting chairman.

They will form a new company called Dragons Rugby Ltd and Brown's company Bisley Office Furniture will sponsor the team shirt for the rest of this season.

The team will be officially known as Newport Gwent Dragons, but will be marketed as the Dragons.

From next season neither the Newport nor Gwent name will appear on the team jersey which will carry the club logo of the dragon's tail and the name 'Dragons.'

"I'm reasonably happy with the deal," said Hazell. "From the Newport perspective of the Dragons we're happy to secure the future and high class rugby at Rodney Parade."

But Ebbw Vale are threatening legal action after being left out of the deal.

Ebbw Vale and Newport were the original partners, but the two parties could not work together and first Newport benefactor Tony Brown resigned, but then came back on board and Ebbw Vale counterpart Marcus Russell quit.

"At no stage has anyone from Ebbw Vale RFC Ltd, including their Gwent board director, Mrs Jill Lines, ever been consulted or involved in this setting up of a WRU controlled Gwent entity," said Russell.

"It appears that the composition and structure of this new set-up is at complete variance with the financial and structural agreements reached between the premier clubs and the WRU on March 20 this year.

"Furthermore it directly conflicts with the terms and benefits of the the existing ten-year loyalty agreement between Ebbw Vale RFC Ltd and the WRU.

"At this point in time Ebbw Vale RFC Ltd reserves its rights under the agreements and contracts it