PREVIEW: European Cup, Round Four
CHAMPIONS CUP: Toulouse’s South African loose forward Rynhardt Elstadt says clinching a place in the European Champions Cup quarterfinals is on the squad’s mind ahead of facing Montpellier this weekend as he also looks to ease any lingering disappointment over missing his country’s World Cup triumph.
The Top 14 title holders can close in on a last-eight spot with two rounds to go if they win Saturday’s all-French affair and Gloucester beat Connacht in Ireland in Pool 5.
“There have been talks about it but the mindset of the team is really good, they never overthink things,” Elstadt told AFP.
“If we don’t win this weekend we have another chance the following weekend of European games. In the back of your mind, if we do take the victory we can be certain of a quarterfinal spot,” he added.
Elstadt, 29, made his Springboks debut in July but missed out on a spot in the squad which went on to win the World Cup less than four months later.
“From day one I knew where I was standing in team selection so the disappointment wasn’t too bad. It would have been between myself and [captain] Siya Kolisi because he had a knee injury,” Elstadt said.
“At the end of the day I was still disappointed as I wasn’t going to a World Cup, especially when they bloody won the thing,” he added.
The combative flank is joined in the record four-time European champions set-up by World Cup winner and fellow former Stormer Cheslin Kolbe, who could start his first Toulouse game of the season this weekend.
The pair lifted the Top 14 title together in June and Kolbe then starred at the World Cup, scoring four tries in as many games.
“Nothing has ever changed with him since the day I met him. He’s just an incredible human being on and off the field,” Elstadt said.
“He’s not a really big player but he has a heart of a lion and he’s just proved it over and over. He’s such an X-factor player,” he added.
Elsewhere this weekend, last year’s runners up Leinster can also take a step towards the knock-out stages with victory over Northampton in Pool One.
The two other sides with three wins from as many games this season in Exeter Chiefs and Ulster play Harlequins and Sale Sharks respectively.
Defending champions Saracens, who have been fined and deducted points in the English Premiership for salary cap irregularities, host Munster in Pool Four.
We look at all the Round Four matches!
Friday, December 13:
Harlequins v Ulster
(Twickenham Stoop, Twickenham – Kick-off: 19.45; 19.45 GMT)
This will be the seventh time that Harlequins and Ulster have met in the Champions Cup. Quins won the first two encounters, but the current Pool Three leaders have won the most recent four clashes.
Harlequins have a 50 percent win rate in home games against Irish opposition in the Champions Cup, losing two of their last three such matches.
Ulster have won their last three away pool matches by a single point.
Only Toulouse have made more metres with the driving maul than Ulster this season. They have also scored two tries in this fashion.
Only Munster’s CJ Stander has made more carries than Marcell Coetzee this season.
Harlequins: 15 Ross Chisholm, 14 Vereniki Goneva, 13 James Lang, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Cadan Murley, 10 Brett Herron, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Semi Kunatani, 6 Will Evans, 5 Tevita Cavubati, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Kyle Sinckler (captain), 2 Elia Elia, 1 Santiago Garcia Botta.
Replacements: 16 Jack Musk, 17 Nick Auterac, 18 Simon Kerrod, 19 Dino Lamb, 20 James Chisholm, 21 Niall Saunders, 22 Paul Lasike, 23 Travis Ismaiel.
Ulster: 15 Jacob Stockdale, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Billy Burns, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Iain Henderson (captain), 4 Kieran Treadwell, 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Andy Warwick, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Matt Rea, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
Assistant referees: Cedric Marchat (France), Luc Ramos (France)
TMO: Patrick Dellac (France)
Racing 92 v Ospreys
(Paris La Defense Arena, Paris – Kick-off: 20.45; 19.45 UK & Ireland time; 19.45 GMT)
Racing 92 are unbeaten against Ospreys in the Champions Cup, drawing their first encounter before winning their most recent two matches.
Racing have won their last eight pool games at home, recording a try bonus point in each of their last four wins.
Ospreys are on a six-game losing run in Europe, their worst ever such sequence.
Ospreys have made the fewest breaks and beaten the fewest defenders in the competition while Racing sit top in both categories.
Teddy Thomas is the top try scorer to date with four.
Racing 92: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Louis Dupichot, 13 Virimi Vakatawa, 12 Henry Chavancy (captain), 11 Juan Imhoff, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Yoan Tanga, 7 Baptiste Chouzenoux, 6 Fabien Sanconnie, 5 Boris Palu, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 Cedate Gomes Sa, 2 Teddy Baubigny, 1 Eddy Ben Arous.
Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Hassane Kolingar, 18 Georges Henri Colombe, 19 Dominic Bird, 20 Jordan Joseph, 21 Antoine Gibert, 22 Olivier Klemenczak, 23 Finn Russell.
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Lesley Klim, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Kieran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Morgan Morris, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 Lloyd Ashley, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Scott Otten, 1 Nicky Smith.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhys Fawcett, 18 Simon Gardiner, 19 Guido Volpi, 20 Will Jones, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Luke Price, 23 Tom Williams.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Adam Leal (England), Philip Watters (England)
TMO: Graham Hughes (England)
The #HeinekenChampionsCup never fails to produce the most memorable of moments 😎
Hear from some of the stars in Pool 4 on their greatest memories 👌
Quickfire question: pick your favourite Champions Cup moment ✍️👇 pic.twitter.com/goXMwvATK7
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 12, 2019
Saturday, December 14:
Connacht v Galway
(The Sportsground, Galway – Kick-off: 12.45; 12.45 GMT)
Gloucester have won all five previous games against Connacht in Europe, across both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, with all five decided by single-figure margins.
Three of Gloucester’s last four Champions Cup games have seen the side losing at half-time come back to win the match.
Gloucester’s teenage wing, Louis Rees-Zammit, has made 234 metres this season, the third-most of any player.
Jake Polledri has beaten the most defenders of any forward this season and the third-most overall.
Connacht: 15 Jack Carty, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 John Porch, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Eoin McKeon, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 David Heffernan, 1 Peter McCabe.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 Niall Murray, 20 Eoghan Masterson, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Tom Daly, 23 Robin Copeland
Gloucester: 15 Matt Banahan, 14 Louis Rees-Zammit, 13 Billy Twelvetrees, 12 Mark Atkinson, 11 Ollie Thorley, 10 Lloyd Evans, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Lewis Ludlow (captain), 6 Freddie Clarke, 5 Gerbrandt Grobler, 4 Alex Craig, 3 Fraser Balmain, 2 Todd Gleave, 1 Josh Hohneck.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Alex Seville, 18 Jamal Ford-Robinson, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Joe Simpson, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Chris Harris.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Vincent Blasco Baqué (France), Adrien Descottes (France)
TMO: Denis Grenouillet (France)
Benetton v Lyon
(Stadio Comunale di Monigo, Treviso – Kick-off: 13.45; 12.45 GMT)
Benetton and Lyon met for the first time in Round Three with theTop 14 side registering a 28-0 victory – their first win in the Champions Cup.
Benetton have lost 34 of their last 36 Champions Cup games, with their only victories in that time coming against Ospreys in 2012/13 and in 2014/15.
Lyon have lost their last nine away games in the Challenge Cup (L5) and Heineken Champions Cup (L4) combined.
Lyon are aiming to win back-to-back European fixtures in the same campaign for the first time since 2014/15.
Benetton have had three yellow cards to date this season, and only Northampton Saints (3) have as many.
Only Gloucester (40) have conceded more penalties than Lyon (39) in the tournament this season.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Ratuva Tavuyara, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Braam Steyn, 7 Giovanni Pettinelli, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Ira Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Cherif Traore.
Replacements: 16 Federico Zani, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Michele Mancini Parri, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Marco Lazzaroni, 21 Marco Barbini, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Antonio Rizzi.
Lyon: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Ethan Dumortier, 13 Pierre-Louis Barassi, 12 Rudi Wulf, 11 Noa Nakaitaci, 10 Pato Fernandez, 9 Jonathan Pélissié (captain), 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Patrick Sobela, 5 Etienne Oosthuizen, 4 Killian Geraci, 3 Clément Ric, 2 Jeremie Maurouard, 1 Vivien Devisme.
Replacements: 16 Badri Alkhazashvili, 17 Xavier Chiocci, 18 Hamza Kaabèche, 19 Tanginoa Halaifonua, 20 Virgile Bruni, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Xavier Mignot, 23 Jonathan Wisniewski.
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: JP Doyle (England), Anthony Woodthorpe (England)
TMO: Sean Davey (England)
Montpellier v Toulouse
(GGL Stadium, Montpellier – Kick-off: 16.00; 15.00 GMT)
The home side have won the last three times this fixture has been played in European competition.
Montpellier have a 100 percent win rate against TOP14 sides at home in the Champions Cup.
Toulouse have won nine of their last 10 Heineken Champions Cup games, losing only to Leinster in Round Five last season.
Despite winning more turnovers than any side, Montpellier have enjoyed less possession than any other side after three rounds.
Thomas Ramos has made the most metres of any player (279).
Montpellier: 15 Thomas Darmon, 14 Vincent Martin, 13 Yvan Reilhac, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Louis Picamoles (captain), 7 Julien Bardy, 6 Fulgence Ouedraogo, 5 Konstantine Mikautadze, 4 Nico Janse van Rensburg, 3 Mohamed Haouas, 2 Bismarck Du Plessis, 1 Grégory Fichten.
Replacements: 16 Youri Delhommel, 17 Mikheil Nariashvili, 18 Antoine Guillamon, 19 Caleb Timu, 20 Enzo Sanga, 21 Kevin Kornath, 22 Jan Serfontein, 23 Julien Le Devedec.
Toulouse: 15 Thomas Ramos, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Sofiane Guitoune, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Maxime Médard, 10 Romain Ntamack, 9 Sébastien Bézy, 8 Selevasio Tolofua, 7 Francois Cros, 6 Jerome Kaino (captain), 5 Richie Gray, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Paulo Tafili, 2 Peato Mauvaka, 1 Cyril Baille.
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Clément Castets, 18 Maks Van Dyk, 19 Joe Tekori, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Pierre Pages, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Lucas Tauzin.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Aled Evans (Wales)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Saracens v Munster
(Allianz Park, Barnet – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)
Munster have failed to score more than 18 points in all of their last eight Champions Cup matches against Saracens (W4, L4). The 10-3 win in Round Three was the lowest scoring pool stage game involving an Irish province since Leinster beat Bordeaux 9-3 in the 1998/99 season.
Saracens have only been defeated on two occasions in both Round Three and Four matches in the Champions Cup, losing to Clermont in 2017/18 and to the Cardiff Blues in 2000/01.
Munster are unbeaten in their last three away Heineken Champions Cup games against Premiership opposition (W2, D1, excluding neutral semifinal venues), and they’ve never played four such games without a defeat.
Saracens have lost 11 of their own 39 line outs in the Champions Cup this season and have the lowest success rate (72 percent) in the competition.
Munster are one of just four sides yet to lose a scrum on their own put-in.
Munster have made the most carries (473) and are one of just two sides to have had more than an hour of possession overall (1h 5m, Toulouse 1hr 4m).
Munster’s tackle success rate of 90% is the best this season, and they are the only side to have missed fewer than 50 tackles in total (40).
Saracens: 15 Max Malins, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Alex Lozowski, 12 Nick Tompkins, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Owen Farrell (captain), 9 Richard Wigglesworth, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Ben Earl, 6 Nick Isiekwe, 5 George Kruis, 4 Joel Kpoku, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Woolstencroft, 17 Richard Barrington, 18 Josh Ibuanokpe, 19 Calum Clark, 20 Jackson Wray, 21 Ben Spencer, 22 Manu Vunipola, 23 Duncan Taylor.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 6 Tadhg Beirne, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Dan Goggin, 23 Tommy O’Donnell.
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalons (France), Jonathan Dufort (France)
TMO Éric Gauzins (France)
🗣 HEAD TO HEAD: Ben Earl 🆚 @peterom6 ⚔️
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) December 12, 2019
Leinster v Northampton Saints
(Aviva Stadium, Dublin – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT)
Leinster have won their last 14 home games in the tournament, with their last such defeat inflicted by RC Toulon in Round Four of the 2015/16 season.
Leinster have won their last nine pool games against Gallagher Premiership opposition in the Champions Cup at an average margin of 24 points.
No side has scored more tries than Leinster (13, also Racing 92) after three rounds this season. Saints, meanwhile, have kicked the most penalty goals (12).
Northampton have landed 17/18 kicks at goal, giving them the best goalkicking accuracy rate (94 percent). Dan Biggar has taken all 18 of those kicks.
Leinster have made the most tackles (488) to date, and Josh van der Flier tops the individual charts with 55, level with Ospreys’ Olly Cracknell.
Northampton’s Rory Hutchinson has missed the most tackles (11) this season, but only one of those misses led directly to an opposition try.
Dan Biggar (46) is the top points scorer after three rounds (5 conversions, 12 penalty goals).
Leinster: 15 Jordan Larmour, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Robbie Henshaw, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Calean Doris, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 James Ryan, 4 Scott Fardy (captain), 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 James Tracy, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Ed Byrne, 18 Andrew Porter, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Max Deegan, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Ciarán Frawley, 23 Rob Kearney.
Northampton Saints: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Ollie Sleightholme, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Andrew Symons, 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Connor Tupai, 8 Lewis Ludlam, 7 Jamie Gibson, 6 Tom Wood (captain), 5 Alex Coles, 4 Api Ratuniyarawa, 3 Paul Hill, 2 Michael van Vuuren, 1 Francois van Wyk.
Replacements: 16 Sam Matavesi, 17 Alex Waller, 18 Ehren Painter, 19 Lewis Bean, 20 JJ Tonks, 21 James Mitchell, 22 James Grayson, 23 Fraser Dingwall.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Dewi Phillips (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
Glasgow Warriors v La Rochelle
(Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow – Kick-off: 17.15; 17.15 GMT; 18.15 France time)
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Tommy Seymour, 14 Niko Matawalu, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Stafford McDowall, 11 Kyle Steyn, 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Callum Gibbins (captain), 6 Ryan Wilson , 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Aki Seiuli.
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Adam Nicol, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Tom Gordon, 21 George Horne, 22 Nick Grigg, 23 Ruaridh Jackson.
La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Jules Favre, 13 Brieuc Plessis-Couillaud, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Marc Andreu, 10 Brock James, 9 Alexi Bales, 8 Grégory Alldritt, 7 Paul Boudehent, 6 Kevin Gourdon (captain), 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Thomas Lavault, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Facundo Bosch, 1 Reda Wardi.
Replacements: 16 Brendan Lebrun, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Vincent Pelo, 19 Rémi Leroux, 20 Zeno Kieft, 21 Thomas Berjon, 22 Ihaia West, 23 Pierre Aguillon.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Christophe Ridley (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)
Sunday, December 15:
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks
(Sandy Park, Exeter – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)
Exeter and Sale met for the first time in European competition last weekend, with the Chiefs winning 22-20 despite not scoring a second-half point.
Pool Two front runners, Exeter, have only hosted a Premiership side once before in the Champions Cup, losing to Gloucester 19-27 last season.
Exeter have put together three consecutive victories in the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time.
Sale Sharks have not won against Premiership opposition in the Champions Cup in almost 10 years, losing their last five such matches with their last victory coming against Harlequins in 2009/10.
Exeter have made just eight offloads in their three games so far this season, the fewest of any side. Sale, by contrast, have made 28.
Exeter have missed more tackles (98) and have the worst tackle success rate (81 percent%) in the competition this season.
The Chiefs have the lowest scrum success rate (78 percent), and they are also one of just two sides (also Ospreys) yet to steal an opposition line out.
Exeter’s four tries in the 20 minutes immediately after half-time is the most any side has managed to date. Sale, however, are one of four sides yet to concede a try during the third quarter.
Sale’s goalkicking success rate of 55 percent is the lowest after three rounds.
Exeter’s Jonny Hill has won the most line outs (20) to date.
Sale’s Ben Curry and Exeter’s Dave Ewers are two of just four players to make 50+ tackles this season (53), while only Clermont’s Fritz Lee (6) has won more turnovers than Curry (5).
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Sam Hill, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Nic White, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Jonny Hill, 4 Dave Dennis (captain), 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Replacements: 16 Elvis Taione, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Marcus Street, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Don Armand, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Gareth Steenson, 23 Olly Woodburn.
Sale Sharks: 15 Cameron Redpath, 14 Denny Solomona, 13 Sam James, 12 Luke James, 11 Byron McGuigan, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Will Cliff, 8 Jono Ross (captain), 7 Ben Curry, 6 Tom Curry, 5 James Phillips, 4 Matthew Postlewhaite, 3 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 2 Curtis Langdon, 1 Ross Harrison.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Valery Morozov, 18 WillGriff John, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Cameron Neild, 21 Gus Warr, 22 Tom Curtis, 23 Marland Yarde.
Referee: Pierre Brousset (France)
Assistant referees: Tual Trainini (France), Laurent Cordona (France)
TMO: Éric Briquet Campin (France)
Clermont Auvergne v Bath
(Stade Marcel-Michelin, Clermont-Ferrand – Kick-off: 16.15; 15.15 UK & Ireland time; 15.15 GMT)
Clermont: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Samuel Ezeala, 13 Damian Penaud, 12 George Moala, 11 Alivereti Raka, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Morgan Parra (captain), 8 Fritz Lee, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Alexandre Fischer, 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Arthur Iturria, 3 Davit Zirakashvili, 2 John Ulugia, 1 Giorgi Beria.
Replacements: 16 Yohan Beheregaray, 17 Loni Uhila, 18 Rabah Slimani, 19 George Merrick, 20 Faifili Levave, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Jake McIntyre, 23 Apisai Naqalevu.
Bath: 15 Tom Homer, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Max Wright, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Aled Brew, 10 Freddie Burns, 9 Chris Cook, 8 Josh Bayliss, 7 Tom Ellis (captain), 6 Mike Williams, 5 Elliott Stooke, 4 Levi Douglas, 3 Christian Judge, 2 Jack Walker, 1 Lewis Boyce.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Sam Nixon, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Sam Underhill, 21 Ollie Fox, 22 Rhys Priestland, 23 Gabe Hamer-Webb.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Ian Davies (Wales)
AFP & @ChampionsCup
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