Ben Barba of the Sharks scores the first try of the match during the 2016 NRL grand final.
Ben Barba of the Sharks scores the first try of the match during the 2016 NRL grand final. DAVID MOIR

'It's going to be a real challenge for him'

BEN Barba's shock switch to French rugby carries with it all sorts of questions, pressure and intrigue.

Back home in Australia for the Brisbane Tens, his new backs coach at Toulon, Steve Meehan, revealed what both his new project and fans can expect at the world's highest-profile club.

Being coached by an Australian and a former league man - head coach Mike Ford - is an advantage for Barba but there are also myriad potential pitfalls for a brilliant but sometimes troubled talent.

"It's going to be a real challenge for him, there's no doubt," said Meehan after Toulon completed a popular public training session at Brisbane's Easts Rugby Club.

"We're not just talking about moving from one code to another, we're talking about moving from one side of the world to the other - different culture, different language.

"And it's not just about him, you've got to take into consideration his family and what's happening with their education in a new environment and everything else.

"You've got to work through things in your life as well as your rugby.

"The first 12 months will be a real challenge, there's no doubt."

Toulon is probably the most highly pressurised club environment in world rugby, given the high payroll and huge expectation from ownership, media and fans.

But Meehan also offered an interesting counter-argument.

Toulon's regular blowouts of overmatched opposition could provide Barba chances to express himself while making the odd inevitable mistake as he comes to grips with his new code.

"If you're going to cross codes like this, it's a great competition to come into, the Top 14," Meehan said.

"And a great team to start with because there will be opportunities to come in and he'll get an armchair ride at different times and he'll be able to show people what he can do."

Toulon already boasts world-class fullback options in Ayumu Goromaru, Leigh Halfpenny and James O'Connor.

But Barba's starring premiership role for the Sharks gave Meehan no doubt as to his best position in the 15-man game.

"I guess you've got to go fullback, don't you, but running the defence from fullback in rugby has its differences to league," Meehsan said.

"He's going to have to learn quickly.

"He's going to have to work bloody hard on and off the park with his family to make sure that he gives himself every chance that he can.

"I've worked with a number of blokes who have crossed over and it does take a bit of time.

"The most successful that I've worked with was Shontayne Hape, but he had a rugby background as a junior."

News Corp Australia


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