The Gould Case

The following is an extract from ‘One Among Many: the Story of Sunderland Rugby Football Club’ by Keith Gregson.

The Gould Case was a cause2984314568_bcf40f361f_o-celebre in the days following the big split between union and league. The admirers of Arthur Gould, a popular Welsh rugby union international, presented him with a house. The RFU decreed that this was the equivalent of a ‘monetary testimonial’. Although the Welsh Committee withdrew its £50 donation from the house fund, the RFU was still annoyed and banned its member clubs from playing any side for which Gould had been selected. They also refused to allow him to play for English clubs. The case went on for almost eighteen months at which point Gould decided to accept the testimonial. The rugby league and those who felt sympathy for Gould and the Welsh committee as the laws over testimonials in the welsh game were quite unclear the time. In September 1897, the following private proposition was put forward for consideration by RFU members accepting that Gould’s actions had been an ‘act of professionalism’, circumstances had been ‘exceptional’ and suggesting that he should be allowed to continue to play under the auspices of the RFU.

The minutes of the Sunderland RFC committee and the governing show how complex and divisive this case was. In September 1897, the RFU proposal was read out to the Sunderland committee was written down as follows:

“That Mr A J Gould having accepted a testimonial in the form that the Committee of the Rugby Union has decided to be an act of professionalism nevertheless under the exceptional circumstances of the case, the meeting recommends the Committee to allow him to play against clubs under their management”

The club committee was much divided over its response to this RFU memo. At the club meeting where there was “a small attendance”, it was resolved to send a representative to the national meeting to support the proposal. A week later a motion was put forward to rescind the last one and to inform Rowland Hill, Secretary of the RFU, the Athletics News and the Sunderland Post and Echo. This motion was defeated on the casting vote of the chairman. The originator of the amendment then proposed a special meeting to discuss the case further. This was defeated by eight votes to three. That wasn’t the end of the matter. The wider club’s governing board stepped in and said that the rugby club’s original declaration of support for reinstating Gould was ‘null and void’ and that this too should be reported in the Athletics News, Yorkshire Post and the local papers.

According to the national histories similar heated debates took place everywhere. In August 1900, after almost three years of controversy, the Welsh laws on rugby professionalism were brought into line with the English ones and, as the RFU centenary
history puts it, “so closed the great Gould case”. How Sunderland RFC voted in the end is

About the Author- Keith Gregson is a Sunderland-based semi-retired freelance
book-cover-387x499writer, historian and musician. He has written numerous books about the history of sport including ‘One Among Many’, ‘Sporting Ancestors’ and ‘Australia in Sunderland’. Details of his work can be found at and his books can be purchased from Amazon.

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A.W.PEARSON : The first Australian-born International


It’s doubtful if any of those in the party from Guy’s Hospital Rugby Club, enjoying a drink before heading off to the 2001 Lions match in Melbourne, realised that they were only a metaphorical stone’s throw from the venue where Alexander (Alec) William Pearson played his last rugby match, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Or, even if they did, that one of his England caps was stored away there, deep down in the vaults of the Melbourne Cricket Club Museum.

Those 21st century representatives of the world’s oldest football club, founded in 1843, were soon to board trams and taxis and be spirited westward to what was then called the Colonial Stadium in docklands, the venue almost exactly one year earlier of the first ever Rugby Test match (Australia v South Africa) to be played under a closed roof.

Meanwhile, back in the darkness of the Melbourne Cricket Club Museum vaults, the much faded England cap bore the numbers 1875-6-7-8 to indicate the years during which Alec was selected to play for England. He would have had those years embroidered on his cap to reflect each of his seven appearances, a practice which some players started back in the 1870s and which continued until after the Second World War. But on that evening back in 2001 Alec’s selection as an England player would have been far from the thoughts of the Guy’s Hospital party, even those who might have known that during his time as an international he was also playing for Blackheath and for their Club.

His journey on the road to fame as the first Australian born international began at Mt. Ridley, near Craigieburn, north of Melbourne in Victoria, on 30 September 1853. In 1858 his family left for England to obtain an education for him and his older brother James and they were both to be enrolled at the Blackheath Proprietary School in Greenwich, London. Both Pearson boys were to play rugby for the Blackheath Proprietary School and Club, quite often in the same team.

By the age of nineteen Alec had become noted for his hard tackling and long drop kicks and his first call to play at an ‘elite’ level was for the South in the second of the annual North v South matches.pearson-england-cap-courtesy-melbourne-cricket-club-museum-2

ENGLAND v IRELAND: 15 February 1875

After his first experience of North v South, and presumably several Trial games, Alec made his first appearance in a Test. The match at the Kennington Oval was the first occasion in which Ireland featured in the international rugby calendar and were clad in a green and white striped jersey with a shamrock at the breast. England meanwhile were complete in white jersey with red rose, white knickerbockers, dark brown stockings and rose coloured cap. In this first international for Alec, who had been picked for his hard tackling and kicking, he amply justified his selection by making the one successful converting kick. Not unexpectedly England won, this time by 1 goal, one drop goal and one try to nil.

SCOTLAND v ENGLAND: 8 March 1875

England’s next match was held at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh, under sunny blue skies and with a pitch in perfect order. On this particular Monday (almost all these early Test matches were, for some obscure reason, held on a Monday) Scotland, having won the toss, took advantage of kicking off with the stiff breeze at their backs, a breeze which had mainly expired by half time. Play was mostly in the forwards and was reckoned to be one of the fastest international matches seen to date. Alec was commended for his sure tackling and strong kicking although in the prevailing conditions he just failed with a 30 yard place kick and at a later stage was tackled after a good run to within ten yards of the line. This was just before ‘no side’ was called and the match ended as a nil all draw.

IRELAND v ENGLAND: 13 December 1875

At the Leinster Cricket Ground in Dublin, the first rugby test match to be held on Irish soil, it was soil over which a hard frost had recently prevailed but fortunately on the previous day a thaw had set in. The Irish this time turned out in navy blue knickerbockers and stockings but inexplicably wore white jerseys, only distinguishable from the English by a shamrock emblem rather than a rose. At least they wore green velvet caps while the English retained their rose coloured headgear. It was a finely contested match, in which Alec was commended for his dropping, tackling and general back play and his place kicking as ‘a triumph.’ A quarter of an hour before the end he ‘…kicked a magnificent goal, amidst a volley of cheering.’ England won by that 1 Goal and I try to nil.

ENGLAND v SCOTLAND: 6 March 1876

Beneath a sunny sky and on to the firm turf of the Oval the two teams emerged before a record crowd of some two thousand on 6 March 1876. A pre match photo of the England team included Pearson who had come in as a late replacement in this, the last test match featuring twenty players on each side. Although at the start they had the breeze at their backs it was soon evident that the Scots faced a generally superior side and not long after the lemons had been taken at the five minute half time break F H Lee (Oxford University; Forward) ran in behind the posts to score a try to the great cheers of the spectators. L. Stokes (Blackheath; Three Quarter) then kicked the Goal and while the Scots never gave up they lost by 1 Goal 1 Try to Nil

SCOTLAND v ENGLAND: 5 March 1877

Having missed out on the Ireland Test in February Alec was no doubt pleased to receive the letter informing him of his selection to play in the England team against Scotland at Raeburn Place in Edinburgh and he was probably diligent in responding ‘at once ‘ to the RFU Secretary, H.J.Graham, of his acceptance.

This was the first test he played under the new system of fifteen a side and while Alec returned to share with Louis H. Birkett as one of the two Backs, it was not long before such pairings were to be transformed into what has now long since been accepted as the single Full Back position. With more space to cover but more room to move the Scotsmen constantly pressed deep into the England half with forward rushes and some good displays of the now lost art of dribbling. It was during one of those spells near the end when, with England forced back onto their twenty-five, that the ball went to the Scotland three quarter M.Cross who then kicked a brilliant drop goal. That was to be the sole score for the day and to give the win to Scotland by 1 drop Goal to Nil

ENGLAND v SCOTLAND: 4 March 1878

It was back to the Kennington Oval, again on a Monday, where the weather was gloriously fine and, despite having to pay an increased entry fee of two shillings, some 3,000 spectators had gathered. England were turned out in their usual whites with brown stockings and Scotland with blue jerseys, stockings and caps with white knickerbockers. Scotland won the toss and elected to play towards the famous gasworks, thus putting the wind and dazzling sun in the faces of their opponents. Plenty of scrummages saw the ball well contested in both halves but mainly in England’s and a number of near miss try’s and kicks by both sides had the game remaining scoreless by halftime. It was much the same in the second half and while one report stated that never before had England forwards come off so second best and, had it not been for the good runs of Evanson, the judgement and knowledge of Stokes, the good tackling of Hornby and the safe back play of Pearson, it would have gone hard for England. As it was the game resulted in a Nil all draw.

IRELAND v ENGLAND: 11 March 1878

Only a week later and England took the field at Lansdowne Road with only four of the same players (including Alec) and four new caps. Evidently the game started very late, primarily because of the taking of team photos. The new England captain, M.W Marshall, decided to play with the strong wind in the first half and by so doing achieved victory. Alec contributed to the try scored by H.P.Gardiner and then duly converted that into a goal. Before half time he had converted another try into a goal but failed to convert another and the score remained unchanged. Right near the end of the match ‘Pearson made a fine run but the Umpire ruled that he had been in touch and while the ball was being returned ‘no side’ was called with a win for England of 2 Goals and 1 try to Nil.

Alec returned to Victoria in 1880 and in 1881, the year of only a second royal visit to Australia , he was to play his last game of rugby at the age of twenty-seven. Some one hundred years later a daughter, Lola Maude Pearson, was to donate his England cap to the antecedent of the present Australian National Sports Museum in Melbourne.

About the Author- Ron Grainger is an independent researcher from Victoria, Australia. He has contributed several monographs to the World Rugby Museum archive, including ‘Rugby Union in Victoria: The Early Years’ and ‘Rugby Union in Victoria: Between the Wars’ both available on the website A History of Rugby Union in Victoria


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Telling a ‘pirate’ from ‘a pirate of a pirate’

‘Perhaps the easiest and most common path into memorabilia collecting is via the once-humble match programme. Some surviving examples from the 1880s and earlier were single-sheet, single-side even at international level, and intended mainly or solely as an aide-memoire and indication of the players selected.

They gave (doubtless to the delight of the Scottish RU), no numbers for the players, since at first (and, with Scotland, for a long time) jerseys bore none. As the King was told, none were needed ‘because this is a game, not a cattle market’! Forwards, in addition, had no specialised positions onfield and hence on programmes for many years.


These flimsy bits of paper, purchased for perhaps two old pennies (less than 1p), were unlikely to long outlive the match. No wonder, then, that they are so rare even for the biggest games before 1900. If you find one, hold on: and if need be, get it conserved.

Most were ‘official’, though there are quite early examples of newspapers or entrepreneurs, exploiting growing rugby interest and attendances, charging for ‘pirate’ issues with possibly less accurate details. Demand has now grown even for these ‘bootleg’ versions, which were produced at least to the 1950s in the UK – and the ‘80s in Ireland, with some humorously badly photocopied cut-and-paste attempts.


Programme images courtesy of Dave Richards (Rugby Relics) & Dave Dow (Swansea RFC)


Wales v New Zealand 1905, that most memories-and memorabilia-laden game, has seen ‘piracy’ ancient and modern. By then the bigger clubs and certainly many ‘Tests’ boasted more substantial issues, with Wales’ contemporary economic and national confidence (and historic win) reflected in the eight-page official offering’s bold, part-coloured cover. This is regularly nominated as the ‘holy grail’ of programme collecting, with its historic importance across the hemispheres and controversial 3-0 result.

There was another, wholly different unofficial version produced, including adverts, the great staple of most post-First World War programmes. That one too has grown in value, and the UK’s No.1 dealer has never handled one. It inspired a reprint, either in 1935 or 1953, which has itself been sometimes sold as if was the 1905 issue: effectively a ‘pirate of a pirate’.

Sometimes false claims about a programme are accidental, sometimes not. That reprint was made from an original with glue-caused rips and newspaper print on the rear cover: it’s not hard to spot, and it has a certain quirky attraction, but it can in no way be an actual 1905 issue. It’s also hard to decide what the original colour was: has blue faded to buff, or the other way around, or were there always both shades?

Souvenirs of the tourists sold well then and since, and in 1981 a reprint of the original official programme was privately commissioned, too, but with the fact of its reprinting clearly marked. Neither reprint is really valuable, though, and as with all memorabilia you should try to be sure about what you are getting. Look, check, ask!……’

Very recently, NZ rugby-writing great Ron Palenski was also asking for information on this very programme on the‘Rugby Remembered’ Facebook page. Can any reader help shed more light on the ‘Mystery of the 1905 Pirate’? Answers in the comments.


About the Author- Phil Atkinson is a former History teacher and Headteacher. He is President of Rhymney RFC and Editor of ‘Touchlines’, the magazine of the Rugby Memorabilia Society. He is the author of the Centenary History of Rhymney RFC, joint author of  The King’s Cup 1919: Rugby’s First ‘World Cup’ and ‘Rugby Union Memorabilia: A History and Collectors Guide’ by Amberley Publishing.

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Durham County Diamond Jubilee 1936

The following is an extract from ‘One Among Many: the Story of Sunderland Rugby Football Club’ by Keith Gregson.

“Of the many stirring rugby events at Ashbrooke, none aroused greater interest than the match played 26 September 1936”


Bob Oakes

The game was between a Durham XV and an international XV and was played to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the County Union which had been established in the autumn in 1876. The international side was put together by legendary Hartlepool Rovers man, Bob Oakes. Oakes had been an England player and selector and was also a former president of the RFU.  He had also played for the county on numerous occasions.

The team chosen by Oakes for this special occasion was packed with talented players and a large photograph of both sides has adorned the Ashbrooke pavilion for many years.  There were thirteen international players in his team – six from England, two from Ireland, two from Wales and one from Scotland.  The remaining four were Yorkshire county players.  George Beamish of the RAF and Ireland captained the side and fittingly, in light of the occasion, Hospital, Services, University and Club sides were all represented.

There were a number of well-known players on view that day.  The best known historically is Prince Obolensky, arguably the most famous rugby player of the time – certainly prior to the professional era.  In 1936 he was turning out for Oxford University and England and had made his mark in January of that year by scoring a wonder try for England against the All Blacks in a rare victory over the visitors.  His family had fled the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Prince had just been made a British citizen.  He was killed in a wartime flying accident at the age of 24.


Prince Alexander Obolensky

HG ‘Tuppy’ Owen-Smith, a South African cricketer as well as an England rugby player, had already left his mark on Ashbrooke while playing his other sport.  In 1929 as part of the touring South African side, he had scored a century and taken four wickets in five balls in a game against Durham County – including a hat trick.  He played at full back for the international XV in the Jubilee Match.

At the tender age of 19, Haydn Tanner, the Welsh scrum half, was already the talk of the rugby world.  During the previous year and while still at school, he had been instrumental in helping Swansea to victory over the All Blacks.  His career continued after the Second World War and Tanner, who died in 2009, is regarded in some quarters as the finest scrum half ever.

The Durham side was a fairly strong one too.  It contained two international players – Cliff Harrison of Hartlepool Rovers and England (and at one time England’s oldest living player) and Alec McLaren of Durham City and Scotland.  The other Durham sides represented were Darlington Railway Athletic, Westoe, Gatheshead Fell, North Durham and Blaydon.  Sunderland’s single representative, as was often the case in the 1930s, was Alan Spence.

On a pleasant autumn day, the crowd of 6,000 was treated to a fine display of running rugby.  The final score was 19-3 to the international side with its players crossing the opposition line on five occasions.  Obolensky scored twice.  The post-game celebrations were equally sumptuous with all the great and good of the game in attendance as well as numerous ex-Durham players.  Perhaps the most interesting was W Hodgson of the defunct Tudhoe club.  He had been the first miner to represent the county – in

About the Author- Keith Gregson is a Sunderland-based semi-retired freelance writer, historian and musician. He has written numerous books about the history of sport including ‘One Among Many’, ‘Sporting Ancestors’ and ‘Australia in Sunderland’. Details of his work can be found at and his books can be purchased from Amazon.


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Lest We Forget – Rupert Edward Inglis (England) 18/09/1916

Rupert Inglis

Photo courtesy of Sarah Duncan


Rupert Edward Inglis was easily the oldest of the 27 England internationals to die in service in WW1. He came from a distinguished background. His father, Major-General Sir John Eardley Wilmot Inglis, K.C.B. was the “Defender of Lucknow” (Indian Mutiny), and his grandfather was Bishop of Nova Scotia. His mother, The Hon Julia Selina Thesiger, was the daughter of a Lord Chancellor and sister to an Attorney- General. Queen Victoria was Godmother to one of his sisters.

By the time Rupert was born in London, his father had been dead for 7 months.  He was educated first at Lindley Lodge School and then at Rugby, from where he went on to University College Oxford and then Ely Theological College.

Ordained in 1889, he held curacies at Helmsley and in Basingstoke, before becoming Rector at Frittenden in Kent in 1900, the same year as his marriage to Helen Mary Gilchrist by whom he had three children, Joan, John (“Tommy”) and Margaret. During the 1950s Tommy became Head of UK Naval Intelligence.

As well as gaining two blues at Oxford, Rupert Inglis played his club rugby at Blackheath and, in 1886, was selected for all three of England’s matches. This was the final season before the introduction of a points system for deciding the result.  Until then the number of goals decided the match, with a caveat that in the event of equality, the number of tries was then taken into account. On the latter basis England beat Wales and Ireland, but versus Scotland there was no score of any kind.

When the war came he firstly continued his parochial duties, but became increasingly concerned about the sacrifices of others and therefore volunteered in July 1915, becoming a Temporary Chaplain.

As well as his work as a chaplain Rev Inglis tended to the wounded on the Western Front. Whilst acting as a stretcher-bearer near Ginchy on the Somme, a German shell struck and killed him.

Chaplain the Rev Rupert Inglis has no grave; its site lost during the chaos of war. However, following his death, an Anglican Chapel (demolished 1931) was built in his memory at La Panne, Belgium.

More places are known where he is remembered than for any other fallen England international. As well as at Twickenham, he is listed on the Thiepval memorial (Pier and Face 4C), and in churches at Higham-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire (for Lindley Lodge School), All Saints’ Church, Basingstoke, and Frittenden, where the lychgate is dedicated to him. Elsewhere he is remembered at Rugby School, by MCC at Lord’s, Blackheath FC, at University College, Oxford and Oxford University RFC and by the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department on their war memorial at All Saints, Aldershot.

Rupert Inglis 2008-2994

England team v Wales, 02/01/1886, Rectory Field, Blackheath

For more information on the Rugby Football Union’s First World War commemorations visit

For details of the other 26 fallen England players click here.

The World Rugby Museum would like to thank Mike Hagger for researching and writing this article.

Please like the World Rugby Museum on facebook and follow us on twitter to receive further tributes to the international rugby players who fell in the Great War.


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The most iconic image in the history of sport?

Nelson Mandela 1995

© Getty Images

This photograph of Nelson Mandela awarding the 1995 Rugby World Cup to South African captain Francois Pienaar is one of the most iconic in sport and is significant on a number of levels. The tournament was a grand success and Joel Stransky’s boot helped the hosts defeat the All Blacks to claim a maiden South African World Cup victory, in front of 62,000 fans at Ellis Park.  It was also the first time that South Africa had hosted the tournament, something that would have been impossible just a few years earlier.

The Gleneagles Agreement, signed in opposition to apartheid policies of racial segregation, had meant the Springboks had spent years in sporting isolation. Changes initiated by Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk helped end the apartheid era and the Springboks were welcomed back to international rugby in 1992. Three years later they hosted the Rugby World Cup and the world’s rugby community descended on a newly democratic, but still fragile rainbow nation.

President Mandela saw, in the Rugby World Cup, an opportunity to heal race relations by turning the Springboks, a symbol of the apartheid era, into a team that could unite the whole country. The slogan, “One team, One Country” epitomised the role rugby had to play in helping South Africa progress as a community. Mandela wrote to fans and players in the match-day program for the final, thanking everyone for their support and for helping a young democratic South Africa to develop.

That South Africa proceeded to win the famous Webb Ellis Cup is believed to have given the nation a crucial boost in helping create an environment conducive to resolving the societal differences. In this single moment we see the enduring power of sport to bring people together.

About the Author- Will Holmes, 19, is studying History at the University of Exeter and plays rugby for various local clubs. He undertook a placement week with the World Rugby Museum as part of a Public History module in 2016.


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Lest We Forget – George Pugh (Australia) 05/09/1916



George Pugh was born in Glebe, Sydney on 16 January 1890 and won his only Australian test cap against the United States of America on the Wallabies North American tour of 1912.  It was the final game of a 16-match tour, three matches in Canada and 13 in California and Nevada, and was played in front of 10,000 spectators on the ground of the University of California, Berkeley.

The test was hard fought and Australia came close to losing it.  The USA led 5-0 at half-time and then extended their lead to 8-0 early in the second half.  In the last 20 minutes, the Australians recovered and scored three tries to lead narrowly by 9-8 with just minutes remaining.  The final penalty goal by their captain Ward Prentice gave the Australians a far from convincing win by 12-8.

Pugh had come to prominence as a hard working forward for the Newtown club which went through the entire 1910 district season unbeaten.  He represented New South Wales Waratahs six times in 1911 including three state matches against Queensland and scored two tries.  His performances during the 1911 season led to his selection in the touring party for the 1912 North America tour, but he did not appear in any representative rugby after he returned from America.

For many years very little was known of Pugh’s life after the North American tour and his name did not appear in any list of Australian rugby internationals who died in the 1st World War.  Even the magisterial history of New South Wales rugby by John Mulford from 2005 does not list Pugh among the WW1 war dead.  However, Sean Fagan’s recent researches and the increasing availability of online historical records and newspapers have definitively established that George Pugh was killed by a mortar bomb on 5 September 1916 in Belgium while fighting with the 4th Australian Battalion.

The Sydney weekly newspaper ‘The Referee’ supplies most of the details we have of his wartime service.  On 8 March 1916, Newtown’s captain, Ralph Hill, reported that he had received news from George Pugh, whom the paper described as “the brilliant Interstate forward”:

“I (George Pugh) have joined my battalion.  Have met lots of old friends, including Rugger men in Billy Watson, Tom Lee, Tom Richards, Eric Fisher, Sid Middleton, and Dos Wallach.  The list is too long to remember.  It puts you in mind of a football tour, as they all seem to be here.  No omissions by the selectors on this trip.  I have had two games of Rugby.  We have a fairly good side in our battalion. We could get a good Australian representative team out of the two divisions.  The trouble in arranging matches is grounds. Sand, gravel, and pebbles are the main contributions.’

All seemed well but on 26 September 1916, The Referee reported:

“Mrs. R. Pugh, of Victoria-street, Marrickville, has received news that her son, Lieut. C. H. (incorrect initials) Pugh, has been killed in action in France.  He was educated at the Fort-street Public School.  In 1908 he was a member of the winning team in the Roth Challenge Shield for live-saving.  He was a leading member of the Sydney Swimming Club, and also a prominent Rugby Union footballer.  In 1912 he visited America with an Australian Rugby Union team.  He enlisted in July, 1915, with the 4th Battalion, and left Sydney in the following October as second lieutenant.  In France recently he took part in two charges at Pozieres, and was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant.  Recently a letter was received in Sydney from him, saying that he had been appointed acting captain on the staff.”


  • Australian Rugby – Jack Pollard (Ironbark 1994 – 2nd edition)
  • Fallen ANZAC Wallabies – Sean Fagan (from
  • Gold, Mud ‘n’ Guts – Greg Growden (ABC Books 2001)
  • Guardians of the Game – John G Mulford (ABC Books 2005)
  • The Referee (Sydney 1916)
  • Rothmans Australian Rugby Yearbook 1981 – Jim Shepherd


About the Author- A professional musician and arts administrator, Richard Steele has had a life-long love of sport.  He has been on the committee of the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham since 2005.

Please like the World Rugby Museum on facebook and follow us on twitter for more of the same.

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