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Ben Barba to serve drugs ban on his return to the NRL

NRL Grand Final winner Ben Barba will have to serve his 12-match drugs ban on his return from his cross-code switch with French rugby union club Toulon.

The 27-year-old full-back quit Cronulla after testing positive for cocaine, shortly after helping the Sharks to their premiership win over Melbourne in October.

Earlier this month Barba signed a new contract with Cronulla for 2018 subject to approval from the NRL and, in the meantime, has agreed a short-term deal with Toulon.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg says Barba is free to pursue his French connection and will be given support to get his NRL career back on track.

"Ben does not have a registered contract with the NRL so he is free to make a decision to play in a different code with a new club," Greenberg said.

"The match suspension he needs to serve will only begin after he has completed his playing commitments elsewhere.

"We have been working closely with the Sharks on ensuring he has access to appropriate courses and programs as part of his rehabilitation.

"I would hope that everyone involved in this matter is looking at how we look after Ben's welfare first and foremost - and football matters should be secondary."

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