NEWPORT Gwent Dragons chief executive Gareth Davies has admitted to envy at seeing their English rivals grow while the regions flounder, writes Chris Kirwan.

The former Wales fly-half used his programme notes for the LV= Cup clash against Northampton to reiterate Regional Rugby Wales' stance about the need to change the competitions that they play in and their ability to generate more income.

The four Welsh regions – the Dragons, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues and the Scarlets – have set a deadline of Friday for the Welsh Rugby Union to sanction them joining the Rugby Champions Cup or a British and Irish Cup.

An Anglo-Welsh League remains a fallback option and Cardiff Blues chairman Peter Thomas said on Friday that the quartet are "dying by a thousand cuts".

Davies wrote: "I look at Northampton with some envy but also as being very similar to us at Newport Gwent Dragons and in our other regional towns such as Newport, Ebbw Vale, Cross Keys and Pontypool – passionate about rugby, grounded in approach and known for their rugby heritage.

"What is different is that Northampton and other English clubs have had the opportunity to develop their business, their ground and their infrastructure due to far greater cooperation with all stakeholders and a more vibrant domestic competition structure.

"I would also thank Northampton and the other English Premiership clubs for understanding our problems in Wales and offering a helping hand as the Welsh professional game limps from one crisis to another."

While the Dragons were taking on the Saints in the first half, the WRU announced that Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton had penned a contract with them.

The Union, who last week saw lock Alun Wyn Jones and full-back Leigh Halfpenny turn down their advances in favour of staying at the Ospreys and heading for Toulon respectively, hailed the move

"Welsh rugby together cannot stand back any longer and watch its best players leave Wales," said chief executive Roger Lewis. "We all have to act together and act now in the best interests of the game.

"There can be no better message to current and future internationals than the decision of Sam Warburton to become the first senior player to sign a WRU national contract and commit to regional rugby and international rugby in Wales.

"This is all about us working together in the best interests of rugby in Wales and I am sure this will be remembered as an important moment for rugby in Wales."

Wales squad members Scott Williams, Rhys Priestland and Adam Jones are out of contract at the end of the season and are said to be on the governing body's wishlist for deals.

There are, however, problems.

The regions have an agreement that none of them will field players with central contracts although that stance may be relaxed since the Blues were told of Warburton's decision last week.

And the situation will be complicated if the quartet cannot come to a new agreement with the Union and opt to go for a courtroom battle in a bid to play in competitions that are not sanctioned by the WRU.