Possession key

Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley believes keeping the ball is the key to beating Australia on Saturday. [more]

Possession key

Wales caretaker coach Rob Howley believes keeping the ball is the key to beating Australia on Saturday.

Howley, who was a Lion as a player in 1997 and 2001 and as a coach in 2009, saw his side come within a whisker of leveling the three-match series with the Wallabies in Melbourne last week despite being forced to defend for large sections of the match.

Only a last-gasp penalty from Wallaby replacement fly-half Mike Harries prevented Wales from recording a first win on Australian soil since 1969, even though they made far more tackles than their hosts at the Etihad Stadium.

The Wallabies enjoyed a near 70 per cent possession ratio last time out as Wales were left to rue what might have been had they kept hold of the ball for the final two minutes of a pulsating encounter.

Howley is confident those stats will change this time out, though, as Wales look to head home on an almighty high.

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"When you play international rugby you need possession,” said Howley, who picked an unchanged starting XV for the final Test.

"The key ingredient down here is to keep hold of the ball, and then (it’s about) the quality of the possession. We defended admirably…when you are defending for long periods of time it’s difficult.

“It’s moments of ill discipline and a lack of composure at the lineout that we need to improve on. If we are able to be accurate in the lineout, then the possession stats change a little bit.

“We spoke about the variation in our kicking game – that will be important, as will our accuracy all across the park. When you’re playing against southern hemisphere sides, you need to be accurate and you need to be disciplined and mentally you need to improve on your performance. That’s an area that needs to be improved upon on Saturday.

"These are two good sides, they are evenly matched. You are looking at which side is going to make that mistake under pressure.

"We've got huge belief in this team. There were debates in selection but we decided that this team deserves to go out again to play Australia.

"Picking the same side is a just reward for being 30 seconds from beating Australia in Australia. We were actually leading for 71 minutes out of the 80 and I think that just shows why this side has been selected again.”

Wales will go into Saturday’s final match of the season on the back of a successful week’s training but one that began with two days off.

Howley gave his squad some rest after the second Test to help take their minds off the disappointment of defeat and the former scrum-half has already seen the benefits in training yesterday and today.

And with a chance to create history on the horizon and the need to defend their fourth-place standing in the IRB World Rankings, Howley knows motivation will not be an issue even though series success may have evaded them.

“We gave the players two days off and that will hopefully park what happened on the weekend. You have to move on,” added Howley.

“We’ve trained on Wednesday and Thursday and we’ve had two really good training sessions.

“The opportunity that’s in front of us on Saturday, in terms of getting a southern hemisphere scalp, means that the players are highly motivated.

“We must have done something right to get fourth in the world rankings, which is a huge boost. We need to stay there and that gives us added incentive for this final game."

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