British tenor Russell Watson has been forced to withdraw from BBC1 talent show Just the Two of Us on doctors' orders.

The 39-year-old underwent brain surgery to remove a tumour ten weeks ago and medics were worried that the intensive schedule of rehearsals and live performances would further harm his already faltering recovery.

Watson emerged as champion of the show's first series alongside Cutting It actress Sian Reeves earlier this year, and is said to be "extremely disappointed" to have to pull out.

With the second series, presented by Tess Daly and Vernon Kay, due to begin on January 2nd, producers have had no choice but to also drop the tenor's singing partner Loui Batley.

The Hollyoaks actress said: "I was really looking forward to working with Russell so I am a bit gutted but hope he gets well soon and I'll be cheering the other competitors on from the comfort of my sofa."

Just the Two of Us executive producer Sumi Connock wished Watson a "speedy recovery", adding that "our thoughts are with him at this difficult time".

Couples competing for Watson and Reeves' crown are Sarah Brightman and cricketer Mark ButCher, as well as Brendan Cole and Beverly Knight.

22/12/2006 16:47:48