Ben Barba: St Helens want full-back who could face 12-match ban

Ben Barba
Ben Barba helped Cronulla win their first National Rugby League title last October, scoring a try in their Grand Final win over Melbourne

St Helens coach Justin Holbrook says the Super League club want to sign Ben Barba, who could face a 12-match drugs ban on his return to rugby league.

Ex-Cronulla Sharks full-back Barba, 27, recently left rugby union club Toulon - a side he joined in a controversial code switch to avoid suspension.

The Rugby Football League says the NRL's sanction will apply, but clarity is needed to determine if the ban is applicable outside that competition.

"I hope we can sort it," said Holbrook.

"To get him playing for St Helens would be fantastic."

There is uncertainty about the terms of Barba's suspension after he tested positive for cocaine, as Australia's NRL said it would not begin until "he has completed any overseas sporting commitments".

When first explaining the ban in November 2016, an NRL statement read: "Given Barba has been released from his current contract, the suspension will apply if he returns to the NRL in the future."

If Barba was to join the Super League club in the coming week and the ban did apply in the northern hemisphere competition, he will miss the entirety of the regular season and would only be available for four of their fixtures following the Supers 8s split.

Barba watched from the St James' Park stands in Newcastle as Holbrook guided Saints to victory over Hull FC in his first game in charge.

The full-back's switch to French Top 14 rugby union came after he was sacked by NRL premiers Cronulla. And, while he then agreed a new deal with the Australian club in December, the contract was not ratified by the NRL.

A move to Saints would see Barba, the former Dally M Medal winner as the NRL's player of the year, reunited with Holbrook, who previously coached the player at Canterbury Bulldogs.

"He has done a couple of things wrong, but he is ready to go," Holbrook told BBC Radio Merseyside. "He is a terrific player and it would be great to see him in this competition.

"He was a massive hit in the NRL - people want to see those types of guys play."

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