New Toulon recruit Ben Barba won’t be playing at the Brisbane Tens, with the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) flagging a move to block him from a late call-up.
Barba has reportedly signed with the French glamour club on a three-year, $2.5 million deal but hadn’t joined them when they announced their squad for the Brisbane Tens which takes place at Suncorp Stadium on February 11 and 12.
While the ARU isn’t running the Tens event, every rugby event in Australia has to be sanctioned by the national body, and ARU chief executive Bill Pulver said they would fall into line with the ban the NRL had put in place on the full-back.
Barba was suspended indefinitely by the NRL in November after testing positive for cocaine.
Duco Events chief executive Rachael Carroll had said earlier in the week that an invitation could be extended to Barba but Pulver shot down that possibility on Thursday.
“There is an agreement among all of the codes that if there are existing sanctions in place in one code and a player chooses to change to another code, the codes always relentlessly carry those sanctions across,” he told the ARU’s official website.
“I don’t know the fine detail of Barba’s sanction but clearly it will be something we’ll be talking to the French Rugby Federation (FFR) in relation to the potential involvement of any player. If any player had a sanction in an alternate code during a period where they wanted to play in something like the [Brisbane] Tens, that would be an issue.”
Pulver said he had yet to speak to NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg on Barba’s situation, having just returned from a global rugby summit in San Francisco, but would be on board with whatever punishment their counterparts had settled on.
“Todd and I will be completely aligned on this issue as he would be if a rugby player was going to rugby league. There won’t be an issue between the NRL and the ARU,” he said.
“It’ll really be an issue that we need to talk to, once we understand the issue in detail, there’ll be a conversation with the FFR in France that will be responsible for talking to their club.
“If the sanction doesn’t allow him to play rugby league in Australia next weekend, he won’t be playing rugby union in Australia next weekend.”
Illicit drug policies are determined by individual competitions, not covered by the World Anti-Doping Agency, and as such are not enforced internationally but Pulver said the status quo was satisfactory with the players the primary focus.
“The illicit drug policy – I think this will be an area of focus for all sport and there are different number of strikes that you can have across code, it is fair to say that illicit drugs are a real problem in Australia and right around the world,” he added.
“How we deal with it is a really sensitive issue and in the large part we put in place policies designed to improve the environment for the individual.
“We’re really worried less about the sport, we’re trying to create an environment that’s constructive for the individual. Across all codes, if you breach the policies in relation to illicit drugs, you’re not going to play the game for very long.
“So, I think there’s still room for further dev elopement but I think we’re all focused on the right issues and that is player welfare.”