Barba gets five minutes in Toulon debut
BEN Barba made his rugby debut for Toulon after coming off the bench in their loss to Brive.
Barba, who joined the French club on a three-year deal last month due to a drug suspension in the NRL, played five minutes on the wing at the end of the game as Brive scored a 15-5 victory.
Replacing giant Samoan Alessandro Tuilagi, the 27-year-old joined Wallabies Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell on the field, as well as global rugby superstars Bryan Habana and Ma'a Nonu.
Ironically, Barba's debut for Toulon came because fellow Aussie James O'Connor was suspended for a week due to cocaine charges arising from his arrest in Paris last week.
Barba copped a 12-week ban in the NRL for testing positive to cocaine after the Sharks won the premiership last year.
It was forecast Barba may have to wait until next season for his first chance to play in Toulon's red-and-black colours but after impressing coach Mike Ford at training, the former Dally M medallist was given his first taste of the professional 15-man game.
Mitchell posted a picture with Barba on social media from the dressing room, welcoming his countryman "to the rugby family".
Mitchell said last month he believes Barba will thrive in France, where the media pressure that swirls around Australian athletes at home just doesn't exist.
"He'll be completely out of the spotlight, you're completely left to your own devices," Mitchell said.
"You go to football and that's pretty much the last time you think of it - as soon as you go home it's nothing about football, you don't have to worry about anything or anyone trying to catch you out or doing things.
"For that, it's really good, guys that want to get away from the bubble that it is here with the media and stuff in Australia."
Mitchell warned Barba that owner Mourad Boudjellal - and the fanatical Toulon fans - expect results quickly. however.
"They make an opinion of you pretty quickly as well," Mitchell said.
"You've got to make sure you start well."