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Dan Carter

Nehe Milner-Skudder

Nehe Milner-Skudder

Hurricanes flyer Nehe Milner-Skudder will make his Test debut for the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship decider against the Wallabies.

The All Blacks and Wallabies go head-to-head in Sydney on Saturday, dead-locked at the Top of the table on 9 points each.

The 24-year-old Milner-Skudder will feature on the right wing in 1 of several changes to the All Blacks side which beat the Springboks in Johannesburg in Round 2.

Julian Savea is back on the left wing and will play his 1st Test of 2015, with Ben Smith moving back to fullback.

Sonny Bill Williams is at No 12, while Dan Carter is back at flyhalf for his 105th Test match.

In the run-on forward pack, Jerome Kaino comes in at blindside flank, while Luke Romano comes in at lock.

There are just 2 changes to the bench, with Nepo Laulala providing tighthead prop cover and Sam Cane coming in to cover the loose forwards.

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Patrick Osborne

Patrick Osborne

Tawera Kerr-Barlow

Tawera Kerr-Barlow

Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Patrick Osborne are the main additions to the New Zealand squad for their Rugby Championship decider in Sydney on Saturday.

The All Blacks and Wallabies have each won 2 games in the compacted 3-Round tournament, with Australia sitting at the Top of the standings – with a slender 1-point advantage in the points differential column.

The biggest concern ahead of the All Blacks’ trip to Australia is midfielder Ma’a Nonu’s availability, who remains in doubt for the encounter which doubles as a Bledisloe Cup Test, with a shoulder complaint.

While Nonu has been cleared of a serious shoulder injury, coach Steve Hansen is unsure whether he’ll be available to play the Wallabies.

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Sonny Bill Williams & Dan Carter

Sonny Bill Williams & Dan Carter

Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams will not travel to South Africa for Round 2 of The Rugby Championship next weekend.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has named a 31-man squad to travel to Johannesburg for the Test against the Springboks on 25 July with Carter and Williams being rested.

“In deciding on the squad to travel to South Africa, the selectors based their selections on 3 criteria,” explained Hansen.

“Firstly, we have picked experienced players who are well aware of the challenge of playing South Africa at home.

“Secondly, we want to give some other players the opportunity to see how they cope under the extreme pressure of playing South Africa and thirdly, we took into consideration the fact that some players in the squad could do with having a break for various reasons, so they will be staying home to freshen up.”

Hansen feels Carter and Williams deserve a break.

“Normally if we had a squad of 31, both of them would be in it and would be coming,” he said.

“Sonny has got bit of a busy schedule so we will let him have some time at home and DC can have some time at home as well – along with the other guys.”

All players who are remaining in New Zealand will be given individual training programmes to work on and will reassemble with the rest of squad in August and be available for selection for the Bledisloe Cup Tests.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

All Black legend Dan Carter insists he’s not assured of a spot in New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup squad.

Carter, 33, is regaining his form in this year’s Super Rugby competition, despite his Crusaders team not being the most consistent.

However, in their most recent match the Crusaders smashed the Reds 58 / 17 in Christchurch and Carter showed signs that he is returning to his past form.

“It feels like my form has been getting better as the season has gone on and really enjoying getting a bit of game time,” Carter said.

“I’ve almost played twice as many games as I played last year so that’s encouraging as long as my form is heading in the right direction then I’m happy with that.”

Carter said there are no guarantees that he’ll make the World Cup touring party.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

A host of Crusaders could be playing their last ever Super Rugby match in Christchurch as the 7-time champs play host to the Reds this Friday.

Tom Taylor, Colin Slade, Dan Carter and Willi Heinz have all announced that they will be heading offshore after this season and Richie McCaw has also indicated that it could be his final season, which means it could be the last chance for Christchurch fans to see them in action for the Crusaders.

Friday night marks the team’s final game in Christchurch this season, unless they qualify for the Finals Series and earn the right to host.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

The decision of All Blacks flyhalf Colin Slade to head to Europe after the World Cup has made coach Steven Hansen very aware that the exodus of New Zealand players is not yet over.

Slade is the 10th All Black so far to announce he is heading offshore at the end of the year, to join French club Pau.

Still to confirm their post-World Cup futures are Julian Savea, Sam Cane and Ryan Crotty and, coupled with expected retirements and the impact of the Olympics, coach Steve Hansen is bracing for a difficult 12 months following the World Cup in England.

Cashed-up European clubs, who once targeted players in the twilight of their careers, assisting the All Blacks into an easy rollover of talent, are now creating a talent drain by luring up-and-coming stars.

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Ben Franks

Ben Franks

Dan Carter has returned to the Crusaders team via the bench, after coach Todd Blackadder named an unchanged backline for their match against the Highlanders in Christchurch on Saturday.

There are 3 changes in the forwards, with Joe Moody and Owen Franks the starting props this week, and Alex Hodgman and Nepo Laulala providing cover from the bench.

Jimmy Tupou starts at lock alongside Sam Whitelock, and Scott Barrett is in the reserves.

This will be Franks’ 100th game for the Crusaders, which coach Todd Blackadder says is a remarkable achievement that will be celebrated by the whole team.

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Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg will make his return to Super Rugby when the Crusaders take on the Highlanders this Saturday.

He is 1 of 5 changes to the starting line-up this week.

Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder has named Wyatt Crockett to start in the No 1 jersey this week, with Joe Moody and Nepo Laulala providing prop cover from the bench.

Scott Barrett will start at lock for the first time in Super Rugby, pairing up with Luke Romano and with Dominic Bird on the bench.

Colin Slade shifts from fullback to flyhalf, with Daniel Carter recovering from a knock to the leg in last week’s match, and Dagg steps in at No 15.

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Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Crusaders pivot Dan Carter is set to miss the Christchurch-based team’s clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.

Carter hurt his leg in his side’s 20 / 10 loss to the Melbourne Rebels last weekend and although Crusaders assistant coach Aaron Mauger believes the injury isn’t serious, he said it’s unlikely that the All Blacks flyhalf would be considered to play this weekend.

That means that Colin Slade is expected to start in the No 10 jeresey.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Details on Dan Carter’s leg injury are still fuzzy heading towards the Crusaders match against the Highlanders on Saturday.

The official line signalled some improvement when he was assessed by the medical staff and then involved in the squad’s light workout on Monday at their Christchurch headquarters.

During the Crusaders’ opening Super Rugby loss to the Rebels, Carter took a knock to his lower right leg which he then aggravated when he made a hasty clearing kick from his in-goal area.

The limping flyhalf stayed on for a further 15 minutes hoping the discomfort from his “dead leg” would ease. He had to be subbed and when he fronted for interviews later, Carter was optimistic there was no significant issue.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

All Blacks flyhalf Daniel Carter’s final Super Rugby season began with a rocky start as the 32-year-old suffered another leg injury in the Crusaders’ surprise 20 / 10 loss to the Melbourne Rebels on Friday.

Carter, who has also already said he will leave New Zealand rugby after the conclusion of this year’s World Cup to take up a three-year contract with France’s Racing Metro, allayed any early jitters about the All Blacks’ world title defence.

“I got a whack in the side of the leg, similar to a spot that I got it last year. It was just a knee and gave me a bit of a dead leg,” Carter told reporters. “I’m sure it’s nothing serious.”

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CrusadersThe Crusaders will open the 2015 Super Rugby season this Friday night when they host the Melbourne Rebels in Christchurch.

Richie McCaw will start for the Crusaders for the first time in 2015, in one of 3 changes that head coach Todd Blackadder has made to the starting line-up that played a warm-up game against the Reds in Brisbane last week.

The other changes are Joe Moody starting at No 1 and Ben Funnell at hooker.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Dan Carter will start the Crusaders’ last warm-up match ahead of potentially his final Super Rugby season against the Reds on Friday at flyhalf with team-mate Colin Slade switching to fullback.

The 32-year-old Carter, who will join French side Racing Metro at the conclusion of this year’s World Cup, had played mostly at inside centre last year when he returned to the Crusaders from a sabbatical to accommodate Slade’s good form.

The fact he will play in his preferred flyhalf position suggests he will get the nod from coach Todd Blackadder to start there for the Crusaders’ opening game against the Melbourne Rebels on 13 February in Christchurch.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Dan Carter has dismissed concerns about a calf strain and told the Crusaders coaches he wants to play the Super Rugby pre-season match against the Hurricanes in Eketahuna on Saturday.

Following the frustrations of last year, when he suffered a small fracture in his lower leg in the Super Rugby Final against the Waratahs and failed to reclaim his All Blacks flyhalf spot on the November tour of Chicago and Britain, Carter is eager to quickly get things going in World Cup year.

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Dan Carter & Steve Tew

Dan Carter & Steve Tew

New Zealand and their All Blacks will lose a large number of experienced campaigners and key players after the 2015 Rugby World Cup, next year.

This was highlited due to the announcement this week by Dan Carter that he’ll be joining French Top 14 club Racing Metro after the Rugby World Cup next year, in England and Wales.

Carter, 32, signed a three-year deal with the Paris-based club which will basically mean the end of his All Black career.

However, Carter may not be the only one to leave New Zealand shores.

It appears that captain Richie McCaw, midfielders Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, veteran front-rowers Tony Woodcock and Keven Mealamu, loose forwards Jerome Kaino and Liam Messam and even Ben Franks, Cory Jane and Charlie Faumuina could also be considering high-paying, late-career stints overseas.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

French club Racing Metro are reportedly winning the race to sign All Blacks star Dan Carter in a deal that is tipped to make him the highest paid player in the game with a £1 million contract.

European media is awash with speculation around Carter as the veteran No 10’s future beyond next year’s World Cup continues to grab headlines.

All the various sources were tipping glamour Paris outfit Racing Metro to lure Carter back to the French competition after his painful previous experience of an injury-plagued sabbatical in 2009 with Perpignan.

The Times suggested Carter ‘is close to becoming rugby’s first £1 million man’ with Racing Metro owner Jacky Lorenzetti prepared to ‘break the bank’ for a move that would finally end Carter’s All Blacks career.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Dan Carter is still aiming to be a factor in the 2015 World Cup after an injury plagued couple of months that have seen him stuttering with form.

Cater now faces a nine-month race to regain the fine form he is capable of for the World Cup after an uncharacteristically below-par year-end tour.

The All Black flyhalf has decided sitting back on his laurels is no longer an option and that regular and consistent game-time will bring him back to his best.

“Throughout the tour my injury had healed. The body felt good but the game-time was lacking,” Carter admitted.

“That tour wasn’t the best situation to get regular game-time but it got me back in the environment, back into the team and a better understanding of the game we’re trying to play.

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Beauden Barrett

Beauden Barrett

New Zealand take on Wales at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium on Saturday with no Dan Carter on the teamsheet, young gun Beauden Barrett entrusted to drive the All Blacks around the park.

Barrett has spent most of the last two weeks simulating English and Scottish attackers as he missed out on selection for the 24-16 victory over the latter behind Carter and Colin Slade, while he came on for Aaron Cruden for the last quarter in the 24-21 win at Twickenham.

But coach Steve Hansen has had no qualms about throwing the 23-year-old Hurricanes playmaker a chance for a rare start in a match-up in which Wales’ last victory came way back in 1953.

“We’ve got total belief in him though, otherwise we wouldn’t have put him in there,” Hansen said, adding that a fly-half’s role was simple.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

All Blacks flyhalf Dan Carter was unimpressed by his scratchy return in the number 10 shirt against Scotland but grateful just to get through the 24-16 win unscathed.

Starting at flyhalf for the first time in a year after a season blighted by a broken leg, Carter was well below his best at Murrayfield, struggling with handling errors particularly in the opening exchanges before being replaced shortly after halftime.

“That first 20 (minutes) was pretty scratchy and there were a lot of mistakes from me personally which, if I get another chance, I’ll have to improve,” Carter told reporters.

“My option-taking probably wasn’t the best at times. But I was pretty pleased to be back out there playing again and I felt as the game went on I grew in confidence.”

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

New Zealand flyhalf Daniel Carter is expected to return to the match day squad for their clash with Scotland on Saturday as he continues to work his way back from a broken leg.

Carter was the highest profile water boy in world rugby last Saturday when the All Blacks beat England 24-21 at Twickenham. The 32-year-old missed out on a place in the playing squad, ostensibly because coach Steve Hansen felt he had not played enough rugby.

Carter has barely played this year after taking a six-month sabbatical and breaking his leg in the Super Rugby final in August.

He came off the bench for 30 minutes against the United States on November 1 and assistant All Blacks coach Ian Foster said he would now get more playing time in their final two matches against Scotland on Saturday and Wales on November 22.

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Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

New Zealand welcomed back superstars Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams for next month’s Northern Hemisphere tour, but dropped pivot Colin Slade, despite his heroics against Australia at the weekend.

Flyhalf Carter, the world’s most prolific international points scorer, has not played since breaking his leg in the Super Rugby Final in August, while Williams returns to the All Blacks after two seasons playing Rugby League in Australia.

There is also a return for Aaron Cruden, who has finally been forgiven for his late-night indiscretion in the latter stages of the Rugby Championship.

Coach Steve Hansen also recalled flank Victor Vito at the expense of Steven Luatua, and included promising scrumhalf Augustine Pulu as the only uncapped player in the squad for the four-Test tour.

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Tony Johnson

Tony Johnson

Before we start treating an All Blacks victory in Brisbane as a fait accompli its worth considering a few things.

It is true that the Wallabies are in a state of disarray, and must be vulnerable.

Their legacy of player power has come back to bite them, and it is extraordinary that their captain should be publically defending a repeat offending player ahead of the team unit, and by extension the coach.

Ewen McKenzie has tried to take a firm line in the past, but despite his strong actions on the end of year tour last year has been unable to instil a sense of no nonsense in the team.

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Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

All Blacks star Ma’a Nonu has been linked to French club Toulon as the European champions ramp up recruitment ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup.

Respected French newspaper Midi Olympique claims Toulon are close to finalising a two-year deal with the veteran New Zealand midfielder.

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Graham Henry

TOP COACH: Former All Blacks coach Graham ‘Ted’ Henry believes Dan Carter, if fit, ought to be in the team heading to the next World Cup.

Sir Graham Henry would pick Dan Carter for the next World Cup though admits the veteran first-five now needs to earn his starting position ahead of two young “world class” alternatives in Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.

Today is a year-to-the-day before the Rugby World Cup tournament began at Twickenham with a match between England and Fiji.

The defending champion All Blacks will launch their campaign two days later with a match against Argentina at Wembley Stadium.

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Dan Carter

POSSIBLE NPC RETURN: All Blacks maestro Dan Carter could come back from injury at provincial level for Canterbury.

Dan Carter could yet wander into the eye of Canterbury’s national provincial championship “storm”.

Since suffering a fractured fibula during the Super Rugby final on August 2 Carter hasn’t added to his 100 test caps and may be asked to make a rare appearance for Canterbury before returning to the All Blacks.

Coach Steve Hansen confirmed that Carter, who has been with the All Blacks in Napier this week, has begun jogging and his immediate playing future will soon be mapped out.

“It is just a matter of whether we bring him straight back in for test rugby or whether we bring him back for (NPC) and with a few games under his belt,” Hansen said.

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Ewen McKenzie

EWEN MCKENZIE: ‘‘Steve has got lots of thoughts. I enjoy reading his thoughts. Last week he was picking the team. This week he’s wondering about our improvement.”

This time, Ewen McKenzie couldn’t bite his tongue.

Two weeks in a row All Blacks coach Steve Hansen fired barbs his way – the first about the Australian Rugby Union influencing Kurtley Beale’s selection and this week questioning how much more the Wallabies had to give.

Before yesterday, McKenzie wasn’t biting. But, finally, the Wallabies coach couldn’t help throwing out one subtle jab.

“Steve has got lots of thoughts. I enjoy reading his thoughts,” McKenzie began.

“Last week he was picking the team. This week he’s wondering about our improvement. We’ll just concentrate on what we’re about. That worked alright for us last week.”

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The past few years has seen Rugby’s world be dominated by one group of Villains that we have come to respect, hate, admire, deride, sledge and applaud. Let’s take a look at these Bad Guys and their alter-egos – whilst not forgetting that most of these guys eventually get their comeuppance. – Enjoy!

 

15. Ben Smith -Keyser Soze – The usual Suspects
Keyser Soze

Keyser Soze – The Usual Suspects

This is one of those moments where we are lulled into a false sense of security. The guy looks harmless enough and seems to melt into the background when surrounded by other more unsavory types. But it is with the Big reveal that things unfold and the manipulator truly emerges.

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Colin Slade

Colin Slade, drafted into the All Blacks squad to replace Dan Carter, who is injured.

Colin Slade has been called into the All Blacks as injury cover for Dan Carter.

Carter fractured the fibula bone in his right leg during last weekend’s Super Rugby final loss to the Waratahs in Sydney and would be sidelined for one month. He would miss at least the first two Bledisloe Cup tests.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

All Black flyhalf Dan Carter will be sidelined for at least half of New Zealand’s Rugby Championship campaign after cracking a fibula in last weekend’s Super Rugby Final.

Carter left the field during the Crusaders’ 32-33 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney after an injury to his lower leg, which the franchise said was a hairline crack to the bone which would need at least four weeks to heal.

“A scan has revealed a small crack in his upper fibula. The size of the crack meant it was not originally picked up by an X-ray and required a scan to locate it,” the Crusaders said.

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New ZealandStar flyhalf Dan Carter has been returned to the All Blacks squad for this season’s Rugby Championships against Australia, South Africa and Argentina at the expense of his Crusaders’ teammate Colin Slade.

Carter, the world’s leading points-scorer in tests with 1,440, missed New Zealand’s June test matches against England while on a seven-months “sabbatical” from rugby during which he toured the world, attending events such as this year’s Academy Awards ceremony.

The 32-year-old returned to the Crusaders squad for its most-recent matches in Super Rugby, including Saturday’s semifinal against the Sharks, but has been playing at inside center to allow Slade to continue at flyhalf.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter’s calm presence was crucial for the Crusaders as they set about dismantling the Sharks.

Dan Carter, refreshed after his break away from the game and energised by his performance against the Sharks and the opportunities of the week ahead, is promising more.

The All Blacks No10, excelling in his role at second-five for the Crusaders outside Colin Slade, expects an improvement from his team for the final against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday night, and, just as importantly for a winner-takes-all match, better accuracy from his goalkicking.

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Richie McCaw & Nemani Nadolo

STILL GOT IT: Crusaders and All Blacks veteran Richie McCaw celebrates a great night for the franchise with Fijian flier Nemani Nadolo.

New Zealand exhales. Turns out rumours of the decline of Richie McCaw and Daniel Carter have been greatly exaggerated.

McCaw and Carter both produced timely high-quality performances in Christchurch tonight as the Crusaders won through to their 11th – yes, 11th – Super Rugby final with a 38-6 dismantling of the Sharks. The Red ‘n Blacks are now 80 minutes away from their eighth championship – but notably a first since 2008.

On a night when Kieran Read illuminated the big occasion with a stellar demonstration of his remarkable quality, and Fijian find of the year Nemani Nadolo was equally as destructive, the old soldiers McCaw and Carter were not a million miles off the standard set by the best player in the world.

With Read, this sort of stuff is as predictable as it is enjoyable. He is a colossus of the game completely at the peak of his powers. His every minute on the field these days is to be savoured.

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Kieran Read

Kieran Read

Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Israel Dagg

Israel Dagg

Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo

Kieran Read, Dan Carter, Israel Dagg and Nemani Nadolo all return to the starting line-up for the Crusaders this weekend when they take on the Blues at AMI Stadium.

They are four of six new faces in the starting 15.

In the forwards, Ben Funnell and Owen Franks have taken starting spots in place of Corey Flynn and Nepo Laulala, who will be ready to inject some energy off the bench.

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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

Kieran Read

Kieran Read

The stage is set for Dan Carter and Kieran Read to take command of the Crusaders for the final rocky weeks of Super Rugby, but coaching staff are cagey about the duo’s prospects of starting against the resurgent Blues.

All Blacks flyhalf Carter, working his way back after a six-month sabbatical, and number eight Read came off the bench in the second half against the Hurricanes on Saturday but were powerless to stop their side falling to a 16-9 defeat.

The disappointing loss in Wellington has prompted calls for the pair to be thrown straight in against the Blues, who re-ignited their season with a confidence-boosting rout of the Western Force last week.

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