Im trying to read robots.txt from '/' on a few tomcat servers to block web 
search engines. Obviously placed the txt file in ./webapps/ROOT/

Works fine on a few tomcat hosts that have identical server.xml / web.xml  so 
im puzzled as to why these two Tomcat servers are blocking requests, obviously 
something is different. Ive checked ./Catalina/localhost and see some 
restrictions here but only apply to /webapps/manager

Im not sure where else to look?

The error im seeing is:

HTTP Status 403 - Forbidden
Type Status Report
Description The server understood the request but refuses to authorize it.

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