Edwards wants ranking boost as Wales ponder injuries


London (AFP)

Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards has called on the side to climb the global rankings to improve their chances at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

November sees Wales, currently fifth in the World Rugby's standings, at home to Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa,

A run of good results, starting with Saturday's clash against the Wallabies in Cardiff, will help Wales in their quest to break into the top four come May's 2019 World Cup draw.

World champions New Zealand, on a record 18-game unbeaten streak, are currently out in front with England second, Australia third and South Africa fourth.

The leading quartet will be the top seeds and that should, in theory at least, lead to a 'better' pool draw and a more straightforward route to the knockout stages of the World Cup.

Wales dropped to ninth place shortly before the 2015 World Cup draw and as a result found themselves in the same group as England and Australia.

Although Wales came through the 'pool of death', with tournament hosts England suffering the embarrassment of a first-round exit, they were beaten by Australia before losing to South Africa in the quarter-finals.

Edwards for one would like Wales to make life easier for themselves, saying Monday: "We've only been in that top four four percent of the time since the world rankings came to fruition 15 or 16 years ago.

"So if we can push our way into the top four that will be a big effort from our boys, and that's what we're aiming to do.

"That would be mission accomplished with the World Cup draw on the horizon."

Wales have lost their last 11 Tests against Australia, several by a slender margin, but with the Wallabies having had their fair share of problems in 2016, home fans will hope that run ends this weekend.

"They have had some criticism over the summer but they came second in the Rugby Championship," said Edwards.

"At the moment New Zealand are obviously number one by a distance, but the rest of the competition they basically won," he added.

"People talk about their two sevens, but they have other outstanding players other than (Michael) Hooper and (David) Pocock."

Wales captain Sam Warburton is set to miss Saturday's match, with the Cardiff Blues flanker in line to play for his club instead as he continues his recovery from a neck injury.

Meanwhile full-back Liam Williams and lock Jake Ball are both injury doubts for a Wales side where Rob Howley will be in charge following head coach Warren Gatland's secondment to the British and Irish Lions.

Wales have put their team announcement back until Thursday and Edwards said: "Liam was in a boot last week, it did look serious, but we'll wait until the last minute with the medics.

"We're hopeful he'll play, but he'll definitely play some part in the series over the next month."

The former Great Britain rugby league international added: "Jake has started light training, so we'll see if he's available for selection later in the week."