NEWPORT Gwent Dragons are hunting for new investors and will become “a fully independent region” after Newport RFC and the Welsh Rugby Union agreed to transfer their shares.

The Rodney Parade side are currently jointly owned by the Black and Ambers and the governing body but they will transfer their shares to new investors once the current board are satisfied with their business plan and intentions for the region.

Debts to the current board will be written off allowing any cash injection to be ploughed into the squad and business.

The Dragons will sign a lease with landlords Newport RFC - similar to that of Newport County AFC - and continue to play at Rodney Parade and run the venue.

The move should test whether there are those willing to invest in the most eastern region – and the change will enable them to overtly pursue fresh backers. There is also potential for the Dragons to pass into new ownership.

The naming of the region is not immediately on the agenda but would be discussed with any potential investors.

The Dragons are currently enduring a miserable season – they head to Gloucester in the European Challenge Cup quarter-final but have won just four games in the Guinness Pro12 – but the move is not a reaction to their travails as moves have been made over the past year.

“This is a hugely important decision that will hopefully enable a new chapter to be written in the Dragons’ story,” said chief executive Stuart Davies.

“I am excited by the potential we have and the prospects that this moment brings, and the search can begin in earnest now for the people who wish to take a place at Welsh rugby’s top table and embark on what could be a great adventure.”

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The WRU's 50 per cent stake in the Dragons has long been seen as a barrier to investment and Davies hopes the shake-up can lead to brighter times for a side that has struggled since the first two years of the regional era.

“This is very much a start, not an end, and there is much work to be done before the full picture is in place,” continued the former Wales back row forward.

“In any event, however, it is both timely and appropriate to acknowledge the bold nature of the decision taken by the board, and the huge contribution that the likes of Tony Brown, Martyn Hazell and Will Godfrey have made to professional rugby at Rodney Parade throughout some difficult times.

“Perhaps only those ‘on the inside’ can truly appreciate what they have done, but take it from me their legacy is a significant one.

“I would also like to thank the WRU for their support of the proposals, their patience whilst we have been bringing about change, and their assistance in taking the plan forward.”

“Newport RFC understand and support the aspirations of the Dragons and will assist in helping them achieve their aim,” said Black and Ambers chairman Will Godfrey.

“Naturally there will continue to be a relationship between the two businesses and we will begin working immediately on the detail surrounding that.”