Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Gilchrist Out Of World Cup

Grant Gilchrist - pic © Al Ross
Grant Gilchrist - pic © Al Ross

Following the physical encounter with the USA at the weekend, Grant Gilchrist has been ruled out for the remainder of the World Cup with a groin injury.

Tim Swinson is most likely to fill the bench spot behind the Gray boys, but who will be called up to fill out the squad remains to be seen, with Ben Toolis undergoing elbow surgery and Jim Hamilton recently retiring. The solution could be either a Lazarus-like resurrection for big Jim, or more likely calling up Rob Harley who was training mostly in the second row during the summer and who can also provide back row cover.

Finn Russell has sustained an “inversion injury” to his ankle (sounds like he “went over it” to use a less technical expression) which will require care and assessment but they aren’t ruling him out yet, which is good news.

UPDATE: Blair Cowan has been called up to the squad as a replacement.

76 Responses

  1. Gilchrist out for World Cup. Terrible shame for the lad, he was playing well and will be missed. I wonder if Vern will use the replacement to call up another second row or a back rower in his place?

      1. I don’t have much worry about his tackling ability. He’s defensively at least as good at Russell. His ability to feed balls to his 12 (has to be Scott after Horne’s performance on Sunday) and call moves bringing in players like Hogg and Seymour is what worries me more.

        I always get the feeling he looks to kick first. Even more so when a couple of passes don’t come off.

        Still though, as has been said, the big test is against Samoa. I’d rather a fit Russell for that as I think we can do damage to them. Much more so than we can against a South Africa that looked a lot better.

      2. I would ordinarily agree with the comments here but thought wee dunc played well when he came on, seemed to stand a bit flatter than his usual and put the ball through hands more often than not. Seems to be our strategy to kick when in our own half and go through hands when in their half, i.e. Don’t even bother trying to play rugby in our own half. A style which I think Weir can play well. Weir and Scott should be solid defensively too. I certainly hope Russel is fit but I don’t have much concern over Weir.

  2. Really disappointing, he looked good against Japan and in the nineteen minutes or whatever it was against the USA. However…one last hurrah for Big Jim at the World Cup? Can he be Scotland’s Stephen Donald (I’m not necessarily arguing he’ll come on and kick penalties for us in the final, obviously)? Probably too much to hope for but still think he could do a job as fourth choice lock for us. Let’s hope the brothers Gray can stay fit or we could be in trouble.

  3. Is there any end to Gilchrists bad luck with illness and injuries.
    He was just starting to look good against USA and he is more naturally aggresive than big Richie.
    You have to feel some sympathy for the man.

  4. Starting to wonder if at some point in his past he decided to swing a black cat by its tail to smash up a mirror shop.

  5. I hope Harley gets the call. Even if he’s nominally a 2nd row, I’d have him over Wilson anywhere in the back row you want to pick him.

    Failing that, who else is kicking about?

    1. Harley would be the automatic pick as he was down as 2nd row in the training squad. However its worth noting that Blair Cowan can play there too so might be worth a shout to cover Hardie.
      Big Jim’s retired and Ben Toolis is injured. Suspect it’ll be Harley or Cowan

      1. Happy with either but that’s a difficult choice.

        Harley, probably the better option at covering 2nd row (having only 3 locks seems a little light)or Cowan who is undoubtedly better cover at 7, albeit he’s not a natural in there.

        Having thought that through though, I’d probably go for Cowan just now because we are desperately light at 7 and call up Harley if there is another 2nd row injury.

        There you go Vern. Sorted it for you.

        I look forward to hearing that Adam Ashe has been called up…

  6. Watched Weir warming up at half time and thought he looked sharp – never been 100% convinced but to be fair to him, he didn’t put a foot wrong when he came on. He has never let Scotland down and I would start him against the Boks to give Russell time to hopefully recover. Horne to cover from the bench. This will be controversial but I would also be tempted to start Maitland at 15 with Hogg coming on as impact vs SA. Whilst not as flash, Maitland makes very few mistakes and fighting for a start vs Samoa will get the best from Hogg. Would hope to see a fully firing Hogg, Maitland, Seymour start the Samoa game.

    1. Agree, Hogg has not been at his best. Neither is Maitland either to be honest but I would have Hogg on the bench to cover 10/15 if Weir starts. Unfortunately seeing as the boks scrounged 2 bonus points from the Japan game, if we get beaten by them we will need to put Samoa to the sword to win the group if my calculations are right. Depends on how they do in their other matches of course but assuming all other things are equal.

      1. I could be wrong but I think that if two teams are tied on points it comes down to the winner of the head to head. We really need a win/draw with Boks to win the group.

      2. At the mo, it’s looking like the winner of the group will face England. If we could guarantee to face Wales/Australia in the QF, would you rather be 2nd in the group?

      3. Tricky one PO, I think I’d prefer Wales of the 3. Aus have the potential to be exceptionally good. England’s brute force approach at the breakdown has stood them in very good stead against us of late (though Denton, Strauss, Hardie may change that) whereas I reckon we can go toe to toe with the Welsh, especially given the injuries.

  7. I’d say that Denton could also cover at lock if required. I’d be calling up Barclay or Cowan, with Harley my third choice.

  8. Agree that we could be doing with another 7 (Barclay) but I would take like for like and bring in a specialist lock. Perhaps we need to beg Big Jim to come out of retirement. Remember we have SA, Samoa, QF, SF and Final to win.

  9. Not sure what to do for 2nd row. Is Gilchrist the new Rory Lamont? I don’t like the idea of Harley in the 2nd row he can tackle just fine and is solid in the line out but I think he just lacks bulk, I think the scrum would suffer big time. I like some folks suggestions that we use this as an opportunity to call up Cowan or Barclay as it is glaring obvious we need another 7. Don’t think he will do that as that would involve big vern admitting he was wrong with his selection and he doesn’t strike me as a man to admit he was wrong. Unless big Jim comes out of retirement it’ll be Harley.

  10. Although none of us are fully aware of Russell’s condition, I would agree if Finn’s excluded from the SA game. Any ankle injury is difficult especially in that position where kicking, lines of running, tackling, etc may cause him to miss the rest of the tournament if strapped up and there is further damage. I actually thought he should have been taken off against Japan and USA earlier when clear games were won. I know that sounds like hindsight but was genuinely surprised he started against USA and can only imagine it was more about kicking responsibilities with Laidlaw rested.

    I’m also not keen on a captain being not a first choice and although think the forwards were under more pressure making the scrum half’s job harder; Pyrgos speed of passing seemed a little slow with a couple of extra steps taken than required. He’s a good player but wondered if captaincy in a game we should be winning started to weigh on his shoulders.

    Maitland has all the talent but doesn’t get involved enough. On the play first half when we almost scored but were pushed into touch, Maitland can be seen standing there doing nothing. If he had helped push from that side we could have scored the try. Bet you Lamont would have.

    Wilson has disappointed, Harley should be in instead of him and think Barclay deserves another chance. Great player who will make a difference, provide more cover at 7 which is badly needed and offers great leadership skills. Feel really sorry for Gilchrist. Bad luck but will have his good spell.

    Last thing – does anyone think that Jackson might be a better option at 10? Weir deserves his chance but did think he looked good at 15 in warm up game and deserved another chance at 10. More in the Russell mould.

    1. I certainly thought Jackson was more similiar in style to Russell than Duncan Weir is. Jackson’s a running fly half and I don’t regard Weir as that. He’s a tactical kicking fly half for me.
      That said, Vern has made his decisions and will stick with them. He couldn’t call in another 10 as that would mean admitting a mistake, and it would also ruin Weirs confidence.

    2. Yes,I agree. Jackson is a good option. Also had a bad run with injury but has worked hard to come back and played well in warm ups.

  11. Weir did look sharp, physically as well so the boot camp has worked well for him. We’re not expected to beat the Boks but a losing bonus point is a real possibility and keeps momentum going. I would start Maitland who’s form is really impressive, great lines great tackling so 14 shirt for him with Seymour 11.

  12. Real shame about Gilchrist but please no not Hamilton. That would be a step backwards for a team that is going forwards in so many other ways. We need someone who is strong and dynamic.

  13. To follow up, Harley may be an option but Cowan lacks strength and is far too slow. He was easily pushed around in 6 nations and pre WC matches so he should not be considered.

    1. How about Damien Cronin- sure he retired alot of years ago but I’m sure he would also be good for 20 mins.

  14. Shame for poor B Toolis as he would of been in the reconing as a replacement 2nd row.Was looking forward to Gilchrist and Toolis in the Pro12 behind what is by far Scotlands strongest front row.Given our back row issues Harley would be the obvious choice to replace Gilchrist.Lets also not forget that SHC is in the squad.Thought he might get a start against USA as he is the strongest 9 behind a pack thats going backwards.The first half in Turin against a rampant Italian side was a good example of that.Given that we are where we expected to be at this stage in the tournament nothing has really changed, so if VC goes canny against SA ( more so given his main playmaker might not be fit for selection )then I suspect SHC behind our second front 8 and a lot of kicking from Weir.

  15. Long shot and it won’t happen but I’d love to see Scott Cummings get the call. For an 18 year old he’s immense, has to be one for the future. I’ll stop writing this work of pure fiction now…

  16. SA, Wales, England and other teams also have their share on injuries, so the loss of a couple of players should not be a dissaster. The difference with Scotland is that the pool of players is so small that the loss of even one key player can be critical. I understand that NZ lost 4 fly halfs to injury in the last World Cup but still managed to win the tounament because they had so many good players to chose from. We have to ask ourselves why the pool of players is so small in Scotland. Sorry to change the subject but it is partly related to this thred- if we had more pro teams then the problem would be solved. I rest my case. Engalnd = 2 million registered players, Scotland 38,000- we basically don’t stand a chance.

    1. Makes sense. Can cover 7 well enough and, if needs be, cover the locks. Relatively relaxed about that. I think he should have been in the initial squad anyway. He was one of the bright spots from the 6 nations. His turn over stats were ridiculous.

  17. Anyone reckon VC will go with two open sides now? Losing 8-1 on the turnover count was grim.

  18. Would have preferred Barclay but not surprised. I actually think we have an excellent chance to do well in this RWC but this next match will be key. If destroyed or a few key injuries ie. Front row or centres then Samao likely to be the end of it but if we stay in the contest with RSA until the end win or lose then the confidence will grow. Coming 2nd in this group is still preferential but look at Wales. Half a first team left but still believe they can win it. We are too inconsistent yet if we added more belief then we could be dangerous. After all we have added over 30pts in 2nd half of both games so have the ability. Subs need to stand up though especially front row.

  19. If we beat the Boks then we’re pretty much assured to top the group and whoever we play in the quarters will be worried (Australia, England or Wales). We can even afford to rest players against Samoa as that will be a dead rubber.
    If we lose then we need to get a losing bonus point, if only to keep the confidence up. If we then beat Samoa then our QF oppo will still be worried!!
    This is the BIG match – and I’ll be there to watch it!

  20. Still awaiting news on Finn. I read that he was spotted on crutches this morning. I am sure that’s pretty standard for any type of leg injury, whether it’s serious or not, but still makes me feel uneasy! He is Scotland’s biggest asset. Saying that, Weir is solid and perhaps if we can win this weekend without Russell it will give the team an even bigger boost of morale. Saturday feels like years away.

  21. Does anyone else feel that finishing 2nd in Pool B might actually improve our chances of going deep in this competition? The winner/runner-up of Pool A now seems a bit of a lottery. Who knows? Wales might finish top of that pool now. I’m more concerned about avoiding NZ in the semis rather than who we play in the quarters. And we can only do that by finishing 2nd in Pool B. I’m going to the game this weekend, and hoping for the win. But I won’t be too disappointed if we don’t. Much more concerned about avoiding injuries!

    1. Don’t put the cart before the horse!! Just because we’ve all been thinking it! Looking with barely bridled optimism at the quarter-finals and avoiding NZ in the Semis. Let’s just get to the Quarters first.
      Beating RSA on Saturday will be HUGE for Scotland, both in terms of confidence and making everyone else take us seriously.

  22. I agree with last few comments but we dare to dream don’t we. The problem being Scottish in any type of sport is that we know on our day we can win any game but we are just as likely to put in a woeful performance. Our last game 2 halfs is evidence of it. Either that or we are just saying our 2nd string just ain’t good enough to compete with lesser rugby nations. Reality is we have won the first two games which we were expected to do and now face the crucial tests.

    I do hope we change the structure though as while our 2 pro12 teams did well last year, if we had the injury list Wales had, Glasgow would be playing their u16s against European and Pro12 teams. Martin Gilbert has had talks with SRU to part fund through sponsorship a 3rd team in Aberdeen and think London Scottish could be added to the Pro12. The Italian teams don’t add much except travelling expenses. Surely one of them is the answer.

    1. I hate to disagree but Glasgow’s injury list was huge last season. Half a team for much of the season.

  23. The concept of the Exiles (Scottish & Welsh) joining Pro 12 has been aired at length. (Look on Rolling Maul, Championship). Basically there are two chances, microscopic and infinitesimal. In any event both are some way short of the Italians in quality.

  24. Team for Saturday
    1 Dickinson
    2 Brown
    3 Nel
    4 Gray
    5 Gray
    6 Cowan
    7 Hardie
    8 Denton
    9 Laidlaw
    10 Russell
    11 Seymour
    12 Scott
    13 Bennett
    14 Maitland
    15 Hogg
    16 Bryce
    17 Reid
    18 Welsh
    19 Swinson
    20 Strauss
    21 Pyrgos
    22 Horne
    23 Lamont

    1. Strauss for Cowan. BVC’s never going to play two opensides against the Boks. Need a few big ball carriers in his back row. Otherwise spot on.

  25. Agree, that’s the best 15 (and bench looks right as well). Unfortunately I don’t see Finn Russell playing this weekend so 10 will be Weir.

  26. Sorry correction, I would play Ford with Brown on the bench. His line out throwing has at times been suspect and he can’t hook but for a big game like this, you need experience.

  27. Big Vern doesn’t seem too concerned with positional logistics, rather player abilities. I like that a lot.

    My initial fear after Japan’s upset was that we’d be on the receiving end of a nasty backlash. Samoa have been the first victims of that and I know the Boks won’t take us on with any complaisancy as their press are rattling their cage hard.

    However (here goes the optimist in me), they’ve just lost their outright leader on the field in Jean De Villiers and I’d expect Burger to take over captaincy duty. If we try to play a fast game the likes of le Roux, Habana, etc will punish us, but if we somehow manage to strangle a slow paced game and make a neusence of ourselves at the breakdown (Cowan, Hardie, R Gray) then play to Weir’s strengths and play a territory game then we might just pinch it with a little help from our old friend Nigel Owens?

  28. Not surprised at Blair Cowan though I feel Rob Harley may feel hard done by as he was the second row cover. They both weigh much the same as well however I can see BC has maturity over RH as a pool player.

    Unlike other posters I would have played Big Jim if he was available. lots of experience and made of the right stuff to face SA and Samoa especially. Roughty tufftey bruising games and Big Jim would fit in well, in fact he would be setting the standards. Once we are through them , yes have to agree , we may have to moderate our selection.

    This tournament is not primarilly about building a squad, it is first and foremost about playing your rugby game by game, team by team and minute by minute. It is quite short term thinking at this moment, win the next game and take it from there. Everying else is a bonus. If we do get a squad that fit well together, so much the better, however that is not the immediate priority.

    Barclay – Well. It feels like Kelly Brown all over again does it not ? Perhaps he just does not fit with the current setup ?

  29. Russell to be monitored and a decision will be made on Thursday morning. He’s in a boot and on crutches just now. I’ll remain optimistic he’ll make it, but looks very likely Weir will start this weekend.

    1. I wasn’t 100% sure what a FUD was. Online dictionary says ‘backside, buttocks 1785, a Scottish and Northern dialect word of unknown origin, perhaps from Scandinavia.’
      Clearly an arse.

  30. Hearing conflicting news about whether Finn Russell will be fit or not. Let’s not worry about it. If he is only 80% fit then leave him out of RSA game. We have Duncan Weir, Horne can play in that position, Laidlaw can play in that position, Hogg can play in that position. If Finn Russell can’t play again in the tournament, we can call up Jackson who is similar 10. I’m not saying Russell isn’t a good player nor that he isn’t important part to how the team plays but front row is what would keep me awake at night. Injuries to Nel or Dickinson and we can kiss goodbye to scrums. 4-5 penalties = 12-15pts. Does anyone remember ‘The Beast’ v Vickery in that Lions Test. If Ford is injured, is Brown as good with line-outs? And while delighted for Bryce to be called into squad, is he good enough to take on Samoa and beyond? Wonder if Murray may reconsider retirement if injuries.

    1. Fourie du Preez is an injury doubt for the Bokke, so they may also be without their key play maker. Wouldn’t exactly even the playing field (they bring in Peinaar, we bring in Weir..) but they are not without their injury woes either. Bookies have us at 5/1, not sure how that compares to previous meetings, but obviously a Scotland win would be something of an upset. We just need to get something out of the game and then we’ll see where we’re at following the Samoa Japan game; I can’t decide what would be the most favourable outcome there (beyond a low scoring draw).

  31. Do any of the well informed among your contributors know why Brown is not added to the squad? We are short of captains, number7’s and bigger men , as well as caps in the loose forwards. Selected for the warm up games when he played well.If he was unable to fit into the team someone else should have been given the warm up chance.

  32. Rocket – there seems to be a few who have been left out in the wilderness without reason. Like Barclay, Brown must be disappointed. Can only guess that Cotter watches the two Pro12 sides and his contacts in NZ & France keep him updated. So unless they are standing out week after week, he’ll concentrate on group he knows most about. Would say that Vern’s new additions have played well. Nel, Hardie & Strauss have all performed.

    1. Remember the killer Bs? Scotland selectors are clearly enclined to select players playing in Scotland. Sign for Edinburgh/Warriors and you’ll get your chance at a Scottish cap. Bigger off to Scarlets/Sarries and you’re making it difficult for selectors to consider you.

      Understandable really if we are to maintain strength and depth for our two pro 12 sides.

  33. Springboks team is out and im afraid it looks pretty ominous….Thats their best centre partnership (although Kriel does tend to go missing in defense). Very Stong backrow and second row. Not particulary confident about Saturday….

    1. Yes, looks very ominous indeed.

      15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (c), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
      Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein

      1. Omnibus indeed. My pals in SA reckon this is the strongest side they have put out in a while. Still, we have a good line up – Hardie will play if he passes the protocols, I see no point in risking Russell unless he is 100%. Cotter has got it right so far. I’m not too worried about the result, I think we will have too much for Samoa (unless we have multiple casualties), can’t see them lasting the last 20 of an up tempo game.

      2. SA normally have a good side. This one is OK but certainlky not the best SA team I have ever seen by a long shot as they have too many old players in the squad who have experience but lack fitness or sharpness. Still a useful team but one that Scotland can beat if only we play to our potential. My biggest worry is the forwards as they are not really big or strong enough to compete with the boks. We just need to get the ball out of lose rucks and scrums ASAP and play a wide expansive game. If we get into an arm wrestle with SA forwards or just sitt back and defend we could lose by 30 points or more. Blair Cowan is easily pushed around and had a terrible 6 nations. Its a real shame that he is in the team as hes not really up to it. Even Hamilton would have been a better option.

        That said, I still cant pick a winner in the game. It’s really down toi which side wants to win the most.

      3. It’s allright Cowan will not play in the 2nd row, unless there’s any last minute injuries to the brothers gray and swinson. He is there as cover for Hardie. Agree with Neil, no point trying to take them on in an arm wrestle it’s what they do and they are good at it. Back row need to step up to the plate and get us quick ball, endless successive rucks will see us sucked in and beaten. Trust in our backs to create tries it works for Glasgow and it should work for Scotland. Won’t be easy against that backline. Basically a must win for them so they will throw everything at us.

        If as people are suggesting Russell is not going to make it we need to get behind wee dunc. As I’ve said before I thought he played very well at the weekend and his kicking should be able to get us out of dodge and playing in the boks half. To me that suggests it’ll be a Scott, Bennett centre with Horne on the bench.

        What about Richie Vernon? To be honest I had forgotten about him till I read an article with him last night. aware it’s probably going back a bit on what I said about trusting creativity in the backs to create tries but I can see some value in having 4 back rows when it comes to breakdowns? In vern we must trust

    1. We do indeed, and I will be both a screaming fankle of anxiety and a screaming ball of encouragement. That is the best Boks lineup (on paper) that I’ve seen for a wee while though.

      1. I’m assuming they’re all properly fit, as a number of those listed were apparently injury concerns. If they are all fit, then no doubt about it, it’s going to be a tough old gig.

      2. Matto- I think you would have had a point 4 years ago but most of these players are past their peak. I can’t remember the last time Bryan Habanna had a great game. Now he is not involved at all in some games and shows the odd flash of excitement in others. Victor Matfield was one of the best players in the world 4-8 years ago but, again, I’ve watched him in the last 3 or 4 games when he has been ‘average’ at best. The same could apply to most of the team. Just look at how they were flagging against Japan in the last 15 mins of that game. 4 years ago these players would have been superbly fit and they would have closed that game out with 2 or 3 tries in the last quarter.

        Well Scotland also have their faults and fair share on injuries so its becoming really difficult to predict a score. I normally have a very good idea of how games are going to go and I’m rarely wrong. This time I’m stumped. It could go any way.

        However, my concern is whether Scotland really have the players who can win a close game with 2 mins to go- I cant remember the last time they did that.

        So here is my prediction: Scotland 25 South Africa 23

        If I’m right then I think I’ll buy a drink for all of the contributors to this blog.

        One concern though- assuming we do qualify for the QF- it looks like we will face England, Wales or OZ- is there really going to be any chance of us beating these teams?

      3. Neil…”most” are past their peak?

        Of the starting 15, ten are aged 30 and under, with only two of these hitting the 30 milestone.

        Five of those are under 25.

        Four of the starting 15 are over 30 with Du Preez on his zimmer frame at 33 the oldest. Matfield isn’t playing.

        Of the 8 man bench..six are under 30 whilst them four of them are under 25.

        What age do you determine to be “peak”?

        I acknowledge the general feeling that the ‘boks have come into the tournament in poor form and we are probably in the best position for some years to cause an upset, but I think that is down to our players and their increase in capability rather than SA being past it.

        I agree Habana is not the spark he was once (thankfully) but I get worried every time Le Roux gets the ball and starts running. There is still quality running through that team. The Japan game was a big shock to them. They’ll be over that and looking to recapture some pride this weekend, especially with the win over Samoa in the bag.

        We CAN win this weekend but I believe everyone of us will have squeeky bums throughout :-)

  34. Various reports out stating Russell will not be fit for this weekend. However, they are hopeful of a return against Samoa next week. Lets get behind the Dunc!

  35. What about bringing Fin Russel on after half time with 20 mins to go. He may not be up to managing a full 80 mins but could be useful going into the last quarter if the score is still close.

  36. Team is out:

    1: Grodon Reid (Glasgow Warriors)
    2: Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors)
    3: WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby)
    4: Richie Gray (Castres Olympique Officiel)
    5: Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors
    6: Josh Struass (Glasgow Warriors)
    7: Blair Cowan (London Irish Rugby Club)
    8: David Denton (Edinburgh Rugby)
    9: Greig Laidlaw CAPTAIN (Gloucester Rugby
    10: Duncan Weir (Glasgow Warriors)
    11: Tim Visser (Harlequins Rugby Union)
    12: Matt Scott (Edinburgh Rugby)
    13: Richie Vernon (Glasgow Warriors)
    14: Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors)
    15: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)
    16: Ross Ford (Edinburgh Rugby)
    17: Alasdair Dickinson (Edinburgh Rugby)
    18: Jon Welsh (Newcastle Falcons)
    19: Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors)
    20: Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors)
    21: Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Edinburgh Rugby)
    22: Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors)
    23: Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors)

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