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Rob Howley: Wales targeting top four spot ahead of France clash

Wales interim head coach Rob Howley said the chance of his side securing a top four world ranking is "a large incentive" heading into Saturday's 2017 Six Nations finale against France.

Rob Howley Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/PA Images

Victory for Wales in Paris - and an England victory over Ireland - would lift Wales into fourth spot ahead of May's 2019 World Cup pool draw.

Such a scenario means they would be likely to avoid a so-called pool of death, which they encountered in 2015 after being grouped alongside England and Australia.

Wales bounced back from back-to-back defeats to beat Ireland 22-9 in Cardiff last Friday and Howley hoping for a similar performance.

We feel in good shape like we did for the Ireland game (which Wales won 22-9), and we are looking for a similar result,

We have talked about the opportunity to go fourth in the world, and we are relying on other results to go second in the championship.

We are aware of that.

We have the opportunity to go into the next World Cup ranked fourth in the world.

That is a large incentive for players and the coaches.

– ROB HOWLEY. WALES INTERIM HEAD COACH

Wales have won their last five encounters against France - their last loss to Les Bleus came in the 2011 World Cup semi-final - and Howley has retained the team that accounted for Ireland.

France pushed England and Ireland close, while also beating Scotland and Italy, and Howley is aware of the threat they will pose.

I think that we will go in against a very good France side.

They were potentially - having watched the England and Ireland games - unlucky not to come away with more wins, and likewise with ourselves. One game can be far different to the next, so we need to go out to Paris and perform to the level we have in training. I was really pleased with the impact off the bench (against Ireland). In the course of the championship, it hasn't been good enough, but against Ireland the bench came on and did their job. I keep mentioning about the 23 players - not about the 15 - and just consistently saying the same message to the players. The bench made the difference, and ultimately in international games that is the difference between winning and losing, and thankfully last weekend we were on the right side of that.

– ROB HOWLEY. WALES INTERIM HEAD COACH
Ken Owens Credit: David Davies/PA Archive/PA Images

Howley paid tribute to Wales hooker Ken Owens, who wins his 50th cap this weekend and is unquestionably a major contender to make this summer's British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.

He is playing well, isn't he?

He is outstanding. When you look at a hooker in terms of the set-piece, he is very accurate, he ball-carries well, gets to the gain-line and makes good decisions. He has certainly put his hand up for one of the tours at the end of the season.

He gives players confidence around him. He is a great senior player with experience.

He leads when he needs to, and is quiet if needs be, too.

– ROB HOWLEY. WALES INTERIM HEAD COACH
Alun Wyn Jones Credit: David Davies/PA Wire/PA Images

Wales skipper Alun Wyn Jones, who will become the first Welshman to start 100 Tests for his country on Saturday, is braced to face a French team "of old."

They have quite a few large men in their pack.

They have the off-loading game, and the physicality they have is like a French team of old, if you like - off-loading and physicality with a heavy set-piece. It is a difficult ask, but we are coming off the back of a positive display and we need to back it up now.

– Alun Wyn Jones, Wales Captain

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