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Edwards calls on Wales to improve ranking

Press AssociationPress Association 31/10/2016 Phil Blanche

Assistant coach Shaun Edwards has urged Wales to improve their ranking to avoid a tough Rugby World Cup draw.

Skipper Sam Warburton has been ruled out of Wales' opening autumn game against Australia on Saturday, with the Cardiff Blues flanker returning to his region to get game-time this weekend following a neck injury.

But Wales have identified home games with Australia, Argentina, Japan and South Africa as a means of improving on their current fifth-placed ranking ahead of the 2019 World Cup draw in Tokyo next May.

New Zealand currently lead the way in the World Rugby Rankings with England second, Australia third and South Africa fourth.

The highest four ranked teams come May will be the top seeds at the 2019 World Cup and should, in theory, present them with a easier path to the knockout stages of that tournament.

Wales have special motivation to be as seeded as high as possible as they slipped to ninth place in the rankings just before the 2015 World Cup and ended up in the same section as Australia and England.

And, although Wales eventually qualified from that group by finishing above hosts England, defence coach and former rugby league international Edwards said: "It's about six or seven teams vying for those top four spots in the world rankings.

"We've only been in that top four four per cent 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 failed to beat Australia since 2008 with the Wallabies winning the past 11 matches between the two countries.

Those games have often been settled by a handful of points, but Australia's indifferent summer form has raised the prospect of a Wales side coached by Rob Howley in the absence of British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland putting an end to that losing run.

Edwards confirmed teenage wing sensation Keelan Giles would not play against Australia but could possibly win his first cap later this autumn.

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