NEWPORT and Ebbw Vale are no longer even on speaking terms as their proposed merger into a Gwent region has completely fallen apart.

After initially agreeing to join forces, Newport have been totally dismayed at the way they claim Ebbw Vale have taken charge.

Newport have had enough and for the past week have been planning their strategy, utterly determined that the merger cannot go ahead in its present form.

They have even fired off a solicitor's letter, and there is now a total stand-off.

If there is any chance of the Gwent region being set up Welsh Rugby Union group chief executive David Moffett will have to intervene.

Even then he will have to be something of a miracle worker if he is to succeed in getting it back on track.

Newport claim Ebbw Vale bring nothing to the table apart from a heavy debt and relegation, yet they are trying to dictate terms.

Newport chairman David Watkins has publicly attacked Ebbw Vale counterpart Marcus Russell, saying "He might be a pop manager, but he has no credibility as a rugby manager.

"Regional rugby might not now occur, or not in the way that was thought."

The feud is the reason Tony Brown stayed away from Saturday's match between the rivals when Newport thumped Vale for the third time this season, not because of any opposition to him from fans, as has been claimed elsewhere.

The two clubs disagree fundamentally on every major issue - the title of the team, the colours they will wear, where the headquarters and training base will be and on the signing of players.

* TITLE - Ebbw Vale say it must be Gwent, but Newport insist on Gwent Tigers because of the black and amber colours, and they may now even insist on the Newport name being in the title.

* COLOURS - Newport say the main feature must be black and amber because of their obvious pre-eminence in Gwent, whereas Ebbw Vale refuse point blank and would prefer the county colour of blue.

* HEADQUARTERS - Ebbw Vale want the Gwent team's training base and offices to be at Cwmbran Stadium and want nothing to do with Newport and all their facilities, whereas Newport say the base has to be at Rodney Parade because of all the infrastructure they have which is unrivalled anywhere in the country.

* SQUAD - the newcomers in the Gwent squad have been signed by Marcus Russell and coach Mike Ruddock, both of Ebbw Vale. But Newport say they have signed the players without consulting them in any way, and as such they are the responsibility of Russell and Ruddock.

Newport say there is no Gwent anyway, and they may sign another group of players to play for the region they agree to.

It is a complete mess and one Moffett is going to have to sort out because as things stand the whole process is on full stop, no-one is talking and nothing is happening.

Moffett is not prepared for the whole process to founder on the back of the Gwent eruption.

"It won't fall apart, we are not going to sit back and let that happen," he said.

He also has to deal with problems in the Pontypridd-Bridgend region and with the overall funding package.

The clubs are rebelling again over the £8m they claim Moffett promised them for the funding of regional rugby, whereas Moffett says he promised no more than £775,000, the rest to be made up by bonuses.

* Pictured: David Watkins