Meet Wallaby Israel Folau

David Lord Columnist

By David Lord, David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    Erase the pencil entry and ink in Israel Folau to make his Wallaby debut against the Lions.

    In a scintillating man-of-the-match performance at Allianz Stadium last night, Folau led the Waratahs to a nail-biting 25-20 win over the defending champion Chiefs.

    In their best display of the season by the length of the straight, the Waratahs went from the get-go, and it took only 15 minutes for winger Cam Crawford to cross for a try on debut.

    Having led 15-0 at the break, and 18-13 with seven minutes left on the clock, suddenly against the run of play the Chiefs had the lead for the first time at 23-18.

    It would have been criminal had the Waratahs lost this game.

    But last night they showed some long-overdue bottle by finishing as well as they started, with a converted John Ulugia try two minutes from time set up by Bernard Foley, correcting the scoreline to 25-20.

    As Wayne Grady said when he won the 1990 USPGA championship – “You bloody bewdy!”

    A salute to Waratah coach Michael Cheika. He has said all along on his debut season, the Waratahs will have ball-in-hand, and not mindlessly kick away possession.

    Last night was the birth of that dream, and well worth the 10 week wait.

    But Cheika couldn’t have achieved his goal without Israel Folau – he’s the launching pad.

    What an athlete.

    He scored the try of the season when Bernard Foley chipped to open spaces, Folau out-jumped two Chiefs defenders, and dotted down with a smile as big as Sydney Heads.

    It was a move planned to perfection – the Foley chip was pin-point accurate, so too the spectacular Folau take.

    But the five-pointer was only one part of Folau’s night out.

    Four clean busts, two try-saving tackles, and an awareness in general play to be in the right place at the right time.

    The big bloke is quickly coming to terms with his new code, and has Wallaby stamped all over him.

    But it wasn’t a one-man show, even though Folau played the inspirational role.

    The platform was from the kick-off, when normally the Waratahs look as though they’re on a training run.

    It took the Chiefs a tick over three minutes before they touched the ball, so diligent were the Waratahs in possession.

    And then it was a procession as Adam Ashley-Cooper, Benn Robinson, Michael Hooper, Sekope Kepu, Kane Douglas, David Dennis, Rob Horne, Foley, and Folau ripped the Chiefs defences apart, mainly up the middle.

    And the support play, so lacking in the past, was just as effective.

    It was too good to last. In a 15-minute Waratah switch-off after the break, the Chiefs piled on 10 points to have their first sniff of the game.

    That they led so close to time, having been well out of it for most of the journey, was to be expected from a class outfit.

    But a couple of incidents underlined this was a different Waratah outfit on duty.

    Chiefs’ skipper Liam Messam has always been a no-nonsense competitor. In both incidents he illegally drove Hooper and Robinson out of play without the ball.

    Both looks were of the ‘don’t mess with me pal, or it’s on’ variety – and Messam never grid-ironed them again.

    So the best of the season for the Waratahs, despite referee Craig Joubert who had a bad game.

    The South African has started to compensate for wrong decisions. A dangerous practice.

    But that apart, it was a big night out for the men-in-blue, deserving of a far bigger crowd.

    No official figure as given, but the guestimate was in the vicinity of 15,000. Not good enough.

    If the Waratahs keep playing this brand of rugby and don’t attract at least 30,000, there’s something radically wrong with the fan base.

    There will be 30,000-plus at the Reds-Brumbies game tonight at Suncorp, where there’s no doubt about the fan base.

    They will all be in red.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn?t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world?s great sporting spectacles

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    The Crowd Says (240)

    • April 20th 2013 @ 7:05am
      Jayvan Collins said | April 20th 2013 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      Couldn’t agree more. I was on the fence regarding Izzy for the Wallabies but after his second try saver last night I changed my mind. Any union fan that watches league will know Izzy “mark” and try will not be a random or isolated event.

      He is a winger that can bust tackles, take the high ball, step, tackle and has the awareness of when to be aggressive and when to be cautious in defence.

      If only he could commit to one sport for longer than the span of a contract…

      • April 20th 2013 @ 7:29am
        Billy Bob said | April 20th 2013 @ 7:29am | ! Report

        And there are many rugby nuts from all states hoping that Izzy can stay, this morning.
        Very little sign of ‘inexperience’ last night, especially when he did all that was required to break the ad line, offload, take a ball high in the corner to score, and stop three tries with two tackles and a scoop.
        Great players make difficult things look easy. And he has ease around hitting the advantage line out wide, then seeming to have plenty of time to offload.
        Btw, I’m still not sure if he deserves to be a Wallaby yet, because last night was one game and there are half a dozen to go, but IF he stays on his current learning trajectory (or just stays at last night’s performance level) he will pick himself.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2013 @ 8:14am
        Who Needs Melon said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        Interesting you describe him as a winger. I’d like to see him given a run in that spot. I’m now confident he could play it but at least a game or two there would be a good idea before anyone calls for him to be played there for the Wallabies. If he CAN play on the wing then he’d be a cert for the matchday 23 now, surely.

        • April 20th 2013 @ 9:48am
          Elisha Pearce said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          I think Folau would play wing for the Wallabies before fullback if he’s going to play in the Lions tour. But if he first gets a Wallabies run in the Rugby Championship I don’t see why he wouldn’t be ready for a run at full back.

          As for people suggesting he play centre, I think there’s a small sliver of truth to that because he can obviously run and fend like a centre. But I think that should just be a bow to his arsenal at full back. He’s got a nice spiral pass right to left, can work on his other one. He can catch kicks beautifully as well. Doesn’t kick amazingly but I’m sick of full backs kicking more than they run it, so that weakness doesn’t worry me so much.

          You can tell Folau is still getting used to front on tackling again. He’s made a few great ones as well as poor ones. I think it will continue to come back to him. In defence of his defence, Mogg is the other form full back and he’s not a brilliant tackle either.

          On the overall game David, you said “suddenly against the run of play the Chiefs had the lead for the first time at 23-18.” I can’t agree with that. The Chiefs taking the lead was with the run of play for the first 30mins of the second half. The Waratahs were out pointed during that time. They couldn’t hold the ball or get it into the right parts of the field. it’s hard to dominate for 80min against the Chiefs – even when they are a little bit off themselves – so it’s no shame to say they won the battle in the period up until their try.

          • April 20th 2013 @ 12:47pm
            PeterK said | April 20th 2013 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

            Agree. A prime reason the chiefs had the run of play McKibbin and Foley KICKED the ball to them in the second half because the attack was not making easy indroads. They defaulted to kicking the ball away. Very very stupid. Instead they should of kept running the ball or at worse kick the ball out.

            Why on earth do they panic and change. Tahs played very well keeping the ball in hand 1st half and then they change. No surpise that when they went back to ball in hand they clawed their way back.

            Folua can kick and long just Cheikas plan is to NOT kick but run the ball conversely Mogg kicks a lot since that is Whites plan and he does kick it a long way.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2013 @ 9:51am
        gatesy said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:51am | ! Report

        It’s not just that he caught that ball, it was done AFL style, running forward hard at the ball, and virtually took it out of the defender’s hands, and didn’t miss a beat when his feet touched the ground. That was pure class. One of those defining moments that you are privileged to watch from time to time.

      • April 20th 2013 @ 12:03pm
        Malo said | April 20th 2013 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

        Too all those doubting Qlders who gave Izzy such a rough ride, suck eggs I said ages ago he would be a wallaby asap. Another cracker of an article id love to see him in the centres though

        • April 20th 2013 @ 1:11pm
          Handles said | April 20th 2013 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

          Who were the “doubting Qlders”? We love Izzy, always have, always will. The only Waratah I would cross the road to say hello to!

    • April 20th 2013 @ 7:41am
      eagleJack said | April 20th 2013 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      David you are correct in your statement about his “awareness in general play to be in the right place at the right time”.

      This is a natural instinct, and cannot be coached. Some have it, most don’t. A perfect example was him ending up with the ball over the sideline from a chiefs grubber that looked for all money like ending in a try. Quality players have an ability to find the ball.

      He has a way to go but he is certainly living up to the hype.

      • Columnist

        April 20th 2013 @ 8:11am
        David Lord said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        eagleJack, you nailed it with instinct, exactly the same as ball sense. Neither can be coached, you are born with both or you haven’t got either. Israel Folau has both, in large chunks.

    • April 20th 2013 @ 7:51am
      kombiutedriver said | April 20th 2013 @ 7:51am | ! Report

      There is no doubt that Folau is class. I would love to see him play as a Wallaby this year as he is such a talent who just gets better each week. Those that doubt him seem to always bring up that lingering thought that he will only play Rugby this year. Falou has that X factor that should play at least some part in the Wallabies this year regardless if he only plays this one season. I only hope that he does not announce he has signed a League contract during the Lions tour or there will be howls of displeasure from the Old School Rugby Purists.

      • Columnist

        April 20th 2013 @ 8:06am
        David Lord said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        kombiutedriver, Folau will be around until the World Cup at least. He’s no fool, he knows where his bread is buttered, and also knows full well that to sign with rugby league next year will ensure the fans will make him a soprano.

        • April 20th 2013 @ 8:53am
          kombiutedriver said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:53am | ! Report

          I hope so David. Would be great to hear the Tahs and the ARU announce a 2-3 year deal to extinguish the doubters really soon. The Tahs are certainly freeing up some money.

    • April 20th 2013 @ 7:52am
      kingplaymaker said | April 20th 2013 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      Later in the international season: Genia, Cooper, Ioane, Tomane, Folau, JOC, Beale. CL and Speight on the bench.

      • April 20th 2013 @ 8:33am
        Rob9 said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:33am | ! Report

        It’s mystifying how you can persist with putting Tomane at 12 despite him playing on the wing for the Brumbies and having absolutely no track record at 12. Kudos for holding your line I guess. And I suppose stranger and very similar things have happened in the past under Dean, eg. Brumbies winger PMC being thrown into 12. But I still think your suggestion is utter madness and a step backwards from what this Wallaby backline could and should be.

        Also I don’t see how AAC could be left out of anyone’s team at the moment. He’s in career best form. We’re better served with Falou being used on the wing to allow him to do what he did last night out wide and then like a good roving winger bring him in to bust over the gain line when required.

        • April 20th 2013 @ 9:10am
          kingplaymaker said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:10am | ! Report

          Rob9 if you look carefully you’ll see I wrote later in the year. So what if Tomane plays wing for the Brumbies, he is a natural centre and should be shifted there and in any case the wing spots are full.

          Why not try thinking differently instead of as conservatively as humanly possible.

          • April 20th 2013 @ 9:29am
            Rob9 said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:29am | ! Report

            Yes I saw that KPM but how does that change anything? Between now and then he’s going to get no time at 12 at the Brumbies with Lealiifano and McCabe both in front of him. He’s playing solidly on the wing for the Brumbies but there’s nothing in his game out there that suggests he’d make a better centre. There’s certainly nothing that suggests he’s a more natural centre. He’s down the pecking order for wing spots nationally and I’d expect for the time being (current form permitting), he’ll be a squad member as cover for the outside backs and more specifically wing.

            My first choice Wallaby 12 is JOC which hardly represents conservative and conformist thinking with regards to the matter of the national inside centre. If anything, you’ve conformed to the populist idea that an effective inside centre needs to be 100 plus kilograms which is rubbish and something you’ve been pulled up on in other posts. Try and think outside of that box! Arguably the best 12 in the world right now is a guy from France called Wesley Fofana who isn’t a gram above the 80’s.

            In any event, there’s both Taps and Lealiifano who are both more likely options than JOC at 12 and certainly represent more realistic, tried, tested and effective options than Tomane does this year and probably for the rest of his rugby career.

            • April 20th 2013 @ 9:53am
              kingplaymaker said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:53am | ! Report

              Realism doesn’t always triumph. Tomane has the skills for the centres and that should trump so-called pecking orders.

              • April 20th 2013 @ 10:10am
                Rob9 said | April 20th 2013 @ 10:10am | ! Report

                Realism sure isn’t coming into a lot of your selection decisions here. Explain to me what of Tomane’s skills are specifically related to the position of inside centre and how these skills would improve the output in the 12 shirt over the likes of tested options such as JOC, Tapuai and Lealiifano? Surely you must recognise there’s something not correct with what you’re saying when a world cup winning coach in Jake White has never selected Tomane in the position in question and he continues to select Lealiifano there instead and even McCabe. The so-called pecking order is based skills and that’s why Tomane isn’t even on the 12 pecking order.

              • April 20th 2013 @ 12:49pm
                PeterK said | April 20th 2013 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

                Tahu was tried in the centres and failed dismally due to lack of positional understanding in defence. The same would happen to Tomane and Folua unless they get a lot of time there at super level before intl level.

              • April 20th 2013 @ 1:16pm
                Handles said | April 20th 2013 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

                Shouldn’t you be talking to Jake White? If he has the skills for centre, all he is lacking is the experience, and only Jake can fix that. You rarely add to your side by playing a natural Wallaby standard centre on the wing.

                Of all the places to pick a player out of position, 9 and 12 are the worst (and 2!). And until you have seen him consistenty deliver the ball to outside backs and defend in the 12 spot, then it isn’t realistic to pick him.

      • April 20th 2013 @ 12:14pm
        A Different Cat. said | April 20th 2013 @ 12:14pm | ! Report

        KPM that is never going to happen. Even later in the year.
        Tapuai and AAC are playing outstanding rugby and you want to remove incumbants for no good reason despite their form and put players that never play in these positions?
        Tomane is not a 12 in my books and his best position is wing.
        Are you one of those guys that is never happy and always wants change?

      • April 20th 2013 @ 9:22pm
        Ra said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:22pm | ! Report

        Maybe the politicians need to rethink how they’re treating the present batch of boat people comin down from Asia KPM. That back line you just named are the offspring Of the first wave of boat people from the South Pacific from the ’70’s, ’80’s & ’90’s, albeit flying boats

    • April 20th 2013 @ 8:01am
      Simon Levingston said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:01am | ! Report

      David, spot on, it all seems to have clicked in Folau’s head, rugby is not really that complicated.

      • Roar Guru

        April 20th 2013 @ 8:06am
        Dasher said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        For a back at least.

        • April 20th 2013 @ 2:36pm
          A Different Cat. said | April 20th 2013 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

          Yeah playing flyhalf is as simple as it gets. Whereas a tightheads job is as complex as it gets.

          • April 21st 2013 @ 6:10am
            Ra said | April 21st 2013 @ 6:10am | ! Report

            Most tight head props see themselves as stand offs playing out of position

    • April 20th 2013 @ 8:10am
      kingplaymaker said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:10am | ! Report

      He’s still wasted at full-back: look how dangerous he was in attack when running from the midfield in the first half. Full-back might have given him the opportunity to get his hands on the ball a lot, to look at the play from a distance and learn about cover defence, but it hasn’t advanced his attacking threat in the midfield where he is most dangerous.

      The sooner he is played at 13 the better.

      Otherwise it has to be the smoothest transition so far of any league convert.

      • April 20th 2013 @ 8:45am
        Rob9 said | April 20th 2013 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        ‘The sooner he is played at 13 the better.’

        And do what with the form 13 of the Australian conference if not the entire competition?

        Finally AAC is being left in his best position and showing us what he is really capable of. For the love of god he should be kept there to continue to shine for the Tahs and then for the benefit of the Wallabies in June.

        Falou should be played on the wing. He shown what he can do out wide and he can be used in the midfield or at first receiver in the same way that Digby is at the Reds/Wallabies.

        • April 20th 2013 @ 9:14am
          kingplaymaker said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:14am | ! Report

          AAC’s form turnaround is very recent and unexpected-I think he would do as well at 12 too given the way he’s playing.

          Folau on the other hand would be infinitely more dangerous at 13 than at 15. Net gain.

          • April 20th 2013 @ 9:31am
            nickoldschool said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:31am | ! Report

            I was and am still with you kpm, have always thought Folau was more suited for 13.

            having said that rob 9 has a point: dunno if its wise to move AAC when the back line is finally working ok? Plus Folau is also getting better at FB…Tbh for the moment, would stick with him at 15 until we know what he does next year.

            Plus i really dont see AAC as a 12!

            • April 21st 2013 @ 6:31am
              Ra said | April 21st 2013 @ 6:31am | ! Report

              Yeah he’d do a great job at 12. Explosive power of Nonu, solid Defence, kick off both feet and nous.

          • April 20th 2013 @ 9:40am
            Rob9 said | April 20th 2013 @ 9:40am | ! Report

            His form hardly represents a turn around. He was solid for the Wallabies all of last year and finally he isn’t being used as the Wallaby and Tah ‘Mr Fix-it’ by playing a range of positions across the backline. In the past he’s shown what he can do for the Brumbies and the Wallabies from his best position at 13. I’ve always said that when AAC is pigeon holed in at 13, you can expect to see the best of Adam Ashley-Cooper.

            You’re also continuing to make baseless claims- “Folau on the other hand would be infinitely more dangerous at 13 than at 15.”

            I agree, Falou isn’t a 15 and he would make a better 13. Having said that, for the Tahs and Wallaby set ups, he’s best utilized on the wing. If he’s around long enough to see AAC retire or move overseas then there’s an argument for him being brought in. But for now he’s not ready and the form 13 in the competition is playing at his club and they’re both from Australia.

            • April 20th 2013 @ 10:00am
              kingplaymaker said | April 20th 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

              AAC hibernated in attack for years despite solidity otherwise and has only just been reborn in attack miraculously.

              I think the kind of running he is doing well now he could equally do from 12, and that the gain in unleashing Folau to break the line would be worth it.

              I think Folau has a tremendous ability to break the line that is not utilised from fullback.

              But Cheika would be unlikely to change things however they were going so Folau’s doubtless 15 for the Waratahs season.

              • April 20th 2013 @ 10:29am
                Rob9 said | April 20th 2013 @ 10:29am | ! Report

                I don’t think you’re assessing or recalling AAC’s form at all accurately which will remain a sticking point. Undoubtedly he’s in career best form right now but he hasn’t been that bad in recent times. Sure he’s experienced some patches of bad form (like all of this generation of Wallabies have), but prior to this year his best Super Rugby and Wallaby performances have been in the 13 shirt and now that he’s being used exclusively there he’s stringing together consistently high level performances.

                Despite standing alongside each other on the field, 12 and 13 are vastly different positions. The time and angles of attack differ. There are those players that have the skills to make interchanging between these positions more easily, while some can only play 12 or only play 13. I believe AAC could play 12 but he’s always going to be a significantly greater 13. I don’t think defence would be an issue but his running game is more suited to 13.

                Your assessment of Falou’s ability to break the line being underutilised from fullback is wrong. From there he can pick and choose where he can enter the line like a good fullback should. I believe the issue is, he doesn’t have the rugby brain and the vision (yet) to consistently do this with success. As a roving winger he can be brought in as a first receiver to bust through the gain line or used in the midfield to hit or create a hole. For state and country I believe this should be his role.

              • April 20th 2013 @ 10:47am
                Terry Kidd said | April 20th 2013 @ 10:47am | ! Report

                KPM no offense intended but why do you always advocate picking players out of position? In your posts above you have Tomane at 12, AAC at 12 and even suggest Folau at 12. I think you may have to make up your mind there mate. Would any of those players be better at 12 than say Lealiafano? Infact, if those were the only players availa ble for selection for the Wallabies then I would have no problems with Lealiafano 12, AAC 13, Tomane 14 and Folau 15.

          • April 20th 2013 @ 5:25pm
            A Different Cat. said | April 20th 2013 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

            Has AAC been out of form?
            Not in the games Ive watched and not according to team mates and whoever votes for the JE medal.
            AAC has to be the most unferrated player in Australian rugby. He cops so much heat for no good reason.
            I can understand after last year that players and coaches are going to have the spotlight put on them but people go way too far. AAC does very little wrong and defends very well. His distribution lacks at times but the is no better option in Australia.

            • April 20th 2013 @ 5:53pm
              PeterK said | April 20th 2013 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

              AAC has not been out of form so much as out of talent.

              In defense he has been rock solid but his attack woeful. In intls he made no breaks , no tries, rarely tested the defence.

              This has been the case for 2-3 years.

              Now in super rugby finally his attack has picked up.

              What is still an incredible weakness is his poor passing game. It is marginally better than McCabes ie he passes 1/20 times. AAC runs at the line nearly all the time and tries to break through. Rarely passes to the wing. Even worse I cannot remember the last time he ran at the line, drew the man AND then passed the ball. It is either far too early or after he has made contact (though he normally takes the tackle).

              • April 20th 2013 @ 6:09pm
                Rob9 said | April 20th 2013 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

                See the stat that I’m talking about just below here to prove everything that you’ve said is wrong. He passes and not only does he pass, he does so when he’s in a position to put a team mate in space and score. AAC is a class (or 50) above the best game PMC’s ever had. While AAC runs angles into gaps, PMC runs into shoulders and he is a player you’ll never (ever) see move the ball along. And this is a kind of important trait in an inside centre. 

              • April 20th 2013 @ 7:40pm
                A Different Cat. said | April 20th 2013 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

                Peterk he was voted 7th best Wallaby last year and 6th the year before.
                So his lack of talent has him in the top 7 Wallabies from about 40 according to JE medal results over the last 2 years.

              • Roar Guru

                April 21st 2013 @ 8:47am
                Mick Gold Coast QLD said | April 21st 2013 @ 8:47am | ! Report

                Lift your eyes from the stats and awards, A Different Cat, and you will find that what they see on the field is precisely that so succinctly summarised above by PeterK – as accurate an assessment as I have seen here of Adam Two-Fathers.

                All I will add is his propensity to lose the ball in the tackle.

              • April 21st 2013 @ 9:05am
                Rob9 said | April 21st 2013 @ 9:05am | ! Report

                This by PeterK:

                “In defense he has been rock solid but his attack woeful. In intls he made no breaks , no tries, rarely tested the defence.”

                Yea only 23 tries for the Wallabies…

                A woeful and inaccurate judgment of AAC’s game.

                It’s easy to make an assumption but it’s kind of important to be able to back it up with some facts and meat.

                And as A Different Cat suggests, clearly those that play around him value his on field contributions.

              • April 21st 2013 @ 3:10pm
                PeterK said | April 21st 2013 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

                Rob9- I clearly stated last 2-3 years.

                How many tries has AAC made in INTERNATIONALS in the last 2-3 years? How many breaks?

                What stat do you have that he passes often?, that he draws the man?

                No doubt that he is a class above McCabe. Also agree AAC’s attack is better and not one dimensional like McCabe’s. But he has lost his mojo last 2-3 years in intls’ in attack.

                In super rugby he looks like he has got it back. Still passes rarely. Look at his stats for runs verse passes if you do not believe me. The 0/C does NOT have to run virtually every time he gets it.

            • April 20th 2013 @ 5:57pm
              Rob9 said | April 20th 2013 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

              He was actually among the leaders in try assists in last year’s SR. I think his lack of distributing skills is even a bit of a myth. This ‘lack of form’ thing is just something in KPM’s head that helps him justify his belief in a 200kg midfield. Forget skill and ability, it’s all about size….

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