Ben Barba
Ben Barba Mark Kolbe

Barba forced to sign with French rugby

RUGBY UNION: Ben Barba says he had no choice but to sign a mega-deal with Toulon due to his crippling financial situation.

The Cronulla fullback had planned to continue his career in the NRL later this year by playing for the French rugby powerhouse while serving his 12-match suspension for illicit drug use.

However, the NRL's refusal to register his new contract with the Sharks until his return from France in June prompted his decision to extend his stay.

"The fact is I am a father of four little girls and like other fathers I am the primary income earner for my family," the 27-year-old said in a statement.

"Since October I have been unemployed and I have financial commitments like any other father.

"I am a professional athlete with a set of skills which I can't earn a living from in this country and I needed a job."

Barba has signed a $2.5 million deal to play with Toulon for the next two-and-a-half years.

"I am happy with my decision and I am very much looking forward to the challenge and the new chapter in my life," he

said. "It's a fresh start and hopefully a successful one."

While thanking Cronulla for its support, however, Barba admitted his exit from league was his own fault after testing positive to cocaine.

"In regard to the incident at the back end of last year, I take full responsibility for my actions," he said. "I made a terrible mistake and I own it and will have to live it.

"I have four young daughters which will one day ask the question about how I won a grand final with my best mates at the Sharks and then made a poor choice which changed my life and my reputation forever, that is a hard conversation I am not looking forward to."


Ben Barba
Ben Barba Ryan Pierse

Cronulla said it understood the former Dally M Medal winner's decision.

"Ben believes accepting this offer to be in the best interests of himself and his family," the Sharks said in a statement.

"While disappointed to be losing a player of his calibre, the welfare of Ben and his family is our main priority and we are supportive of the decision he has made."

The Australian Rugby Union, meanwhile, has ensured Barba would not be making his debut for Toulon at next week's Brisbane Global Tens.

The ARU backed the NRL's stance regarding the timeframe of his suspension for cocaine use.

"Australian Rugby's policy is to respect and recognise disciplinary action taken by other sports," the ARU said.

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