PAVLOV'S Dragons: mention restructuring Welsh professional rugby and supporters at Rodney Parade start shuffling nervously and look at the floor.

In the 15 seasons since 2003 the Dragons have finished bottom of the Welsh pile on 11 occasions. It will mathematically become 12 next month.

The region has frequently got away with mediocrity, despite frequent assurances that better times lie ahead, 'this time next year, Rodney…'.

The hope was that Welsh Rugby Union ownership would prompt an upsurge in on-field performances and off-field interest.

Instead it has got worse. Crowds have dwindled and for every step forward there are two back.

The December hammering at the hands of Leinster's admittedly strong second string was one of the region's lowest points since their inception – a matchday squad featuring six players currently chasing a Grand Slam with Wales looked a rabble.

Surely things could only get better? Last Saturday made you reconsider that stance.

The 57-7 horror show at Benetton was the pits with the Italian side winning every collision and breezing to nine tries against disorganised defence that alarmingly had the appearance of being disinterested.

According to the official PRO 14 statistics there were 41 missed tackles – the sort of tally that would lead to block capitals on the vidiprinter.

South Wales Argus:

It was reminiscent of a World Cup mismatch when a team of Uruguayan butchers and bankers are put to the sword by a Tier One nation.

The Dragons were lucky that many eyes were on Principality Stadium and the build-up to Wales versus England, they were lucky that France against Scotland was about the start on BBC One, they were lucky that plenty of folk still seem to be oblivious that PRO14 rugby is on S4C.

Frankly they are lucky that so many people are so apathetic because it was a performance that would have prompted widespread derision that a professional side could be such a shambles.

And yet, Welsh professional rugby is being restructured and it is not the Dragons that are the most vulnerable.

'Project Reset', a new deal between the Welsh Rugby Union and the four regions, continues to drag on and it is a story that is hard to cover in print.

A possibility one day is off the table the next, then it's back on the table the following day, and off it again the next.

The relationship between the governing body and the quartet is not be as toxic as it was towards the end of the Roger Lewis regime – now it appears they will stab each other in the front rather than the back.

The situation is a farce and is testing the patience of loyal fans of all four regions, with the sport already struggling to retain interest below Test level.

I wrote earlier in the month that the saga is unfair on the players, and Dragons stalwart Nic Cudd then ruptured knee ligaments when he would normally have had a fresh contract sorted.

Now it is the supporters who are being put through the wringer with plenty waiting to see whether they will be binning their season ticket and regional merchandise.

That's because the WRU have an obsession with a professional side in the north and it appears that the Ospreys, Wales' most successful region, are at risk.

It is clear that there is not enough money to go around and that a rethink is needed to for Wales to challenge at the top of the PRO14 and Champions Cup, but this proposal is madness.

Just because it's not the Dragons in the firing line, we shouldn't just have an 'I'm alright, Jack' approach.

There comes a point when pet owners have to think with the wallet rather than the heart; shelling out for flea treatment is no problem but everyone has a limit in their mind as to what they would fork out for a more serious problem.

With the WRU now in charge of the Dragons, things needs to improve sharpish on and off the field in order to stop those at Principality Stadium saying "well, they've had a good innings".

But maybe the governing body are playing a blinder and they will be able to keep the eastern region ticking along.

In time they can turn the Dragons into a development team, cutting the funding and sending it elsewhere safe in the knowledge that some will be pleased to simply be existing.

The same could be said for RGC, who would receive interest, initially at least, even if they were a development region in a 2+2 model.

How long they'd stay on the back pages ahead of Manchester United, Everton and Liverpool when the inevitable Dragons-eque hammerings come is another matter.

But for the Ospreys, a team used to providing the spine of the Wales team and challenging for league honours, being a development region would be unpalatable.

Professional rugby surviving at Rodney Parade will be a relief, to Newport RFC supporters as well as Dragons, as it will save their historic home.

But it will be hard to look those that hold the Ospreys dear in the eye if Swansea's loss is the North's gain.