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Shaun Edwards: Wales' autumn will be judged on result against South Africa

Published 21/11/2016

Defence coach Shaun Edwards has backed under-fire Wales boss Rob Howley following the narrow 33-30 victory over Japan.
Defence coach Shaun Edwards has backed under-fire Wales boss Rob Howley following the narrow 33-30 victory over Japan.

Shaun Edwards has defended under-fire coach Rob Howley by insisting Wales' autumn campaign will be judged on how they fare against South Africa on Saturday.

Wales have not claimed three autumn victories since overcoming Japan, Canada and Romania in 2002.

Howley's side are in position to do that after bouncing back from their opening defeat to Australia with narrow wins over Argentina and Japan.

But the nature of the performance in Saturday's 33-30 victory over Japan has led to questions over where this Wales team is heading with Warren Gatland currently away on British and Irish Lions leave.

"You know when you are in this position as a national coach, you have to block everything out," defence coach Edwards said of the criticism that has come Howley's way since Welsh blushes were spared by Sam Davies' last-minute drop-goal against Japan.

"You continue doing your job, what you are trying to do.

"Rob has only been in one Six Nations (when Gatland was on a similar sabbatical ahead of the 2013 Lions tour to Australia) and he has won it.

"He has a 100 per cent winning record, he is an excellent coach with his attention to detail."

Wales have only won two and drawn one of their previous 31 matches against South Africa.

But Wales triumphed when they last met in Cardiff two years ago, with Leigh Halfpenny kicking four penalties in a hard-fought 12-6 victory.

"The success or relative failure (of the autumn) will depend on whether we win on Saturday," Edwards said.

"It's been said in the past we've played Australia many times and lost by one point.

"We've played fantastic, but we've lost. It's all about winning and we've won two tight games.

"Have we played as well as wanted to on Saturday? No, we didn't.

"But we're going into a cup final this week against a team ranked higher than us and they've got what we want, which is that fourth ranked position."

South Africa will finish their year in Cardiff at arguably the lowest ebb in their history.

The Springboks have lost seven times this year with coach Allister Coetzee's role coming under huge scrutiny.

There has been a record 57-15 defeat to New Zealand, a first-ever home loss to Ireland and Saturday's 20-18 defeat to Italy was the first time they had lost to the Azzurri.

"They don't like playing in the wet, you saw that against England," Edwards said.

"But any team that's got Willie le Roux and Eben Etzebeth in it has got my respect.

"We've got to cut our errors and turnovers down. But if we tighten our game up, limit our turnovers and Leigh Halfpenny keeps kicking as well as he has done, I don't think we'll be too far away."

Ospreys lock forward Bradley Davies has been released from the Wales squad for treatment on a knee injury.

But back-rower Taulupe Faletau, who played 56 minutes of Bath's 16-9 Aviva Premiership victory over Bristol on Friday night after a knee ligament injury, and Scarlets hooker Ken Owens (rib and hip) are available.

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