Barba promises clean start at Toulon
INTERVIEW: Australian Rugby League standout Ben Barba has arrived at Top 14 club Toulon promising to put a drug tainted past behind him and make the most of a fresh start.
After testing positive for cocaine in 2015 and again last year in Australia he was suspended for 12 games and released by his club Cronulla Sharks in November.
Now the 27-year-old is relishing a chance to prove his worth until the end of the French season at Toulon with an option to stay two more.
Switching codes from league to union is no obstacle, said Toulon President Mourad Boudjellal.
"He is phenomenally talented, there aren't many like this in world rugby. Genius doesn't need much time to adapt."
The utility back who plays mostly fullback said he was excited to join a club known for a host of famous past and present players and where a league predecessor Sonny Bill Williams switched codes successfully.
"It's a priviledge and an honour to sign for this club where so many great players have been," he said when presented to the press Monday.
"The past is the past. It was tough, but now I'm ready to give everything to this club who have offered me another chance," said the man who scored 99 tries in 166 matches in Australia's National Rugby League.
He may get that chance as early as next weekend as Toulon host Lyon.
"Despite everything I've kept fit so as to be ready as soon as a chance to play came up."
Boudjellal said it would be good to use the cocaine affair as an example for young people in the region and draw a line under his acquisition's previous bad behaviour.
"We know the stories. This can be a great example for young people. We want him to go into the rugby academies and schools and tell the kids where not to go wrong," Boudjellal said.
Before leaving Australia Barba sent a leaving message to other players telling them to choose their friends wisely.