Taulupe Faletau has delivered a rallying cry to beleaguered Wales after their Georgia humiliation left Wayne Pivac’s coaching reign under intense scrutiny.
Former Wales stars Sam Warburton and Jamie Roberts were among those to condemn an abject performance.
Warburton labelled it “unacceptable” while Roberts questioned the players’ desire as Georgia triumphed 13-12 just eight months after annual Six Nations strugglers Italy also beat Wales in Cardiff.
Pivac has now lost 19 of his 33 Tests at the helm – including eight this year – since succeeding Warren Gatland following Wales’ fourth-place finish at the 2019 World Cup.
Speaking after that bronze medal match defeat against New Zealand in Tokyo, Gatland said: “I hope they (Wales) continue to build on what we have achieved in the last 12 years.
“It would break my heart if Wales went back into the doldrums.”
But less than 10 months before the next global showcase in France, Wales are exactly where Gatland hoped they would not be – down among the also-rans.
Pivac said in the immediate fall-out from Georgia’s spectacular success he is “totally focused on building towards the World Cup” and that whether his position is under threat was “a question for other people, I would guess”.
Georgia, though, rocked Pivac’s foundations, making Wales’ 2021 Six Nations title triumph and first victory over the Springboks in South Africa distant memories.
The Georgians, courtesy of substitute Luka Matkava’s 78th-minute penalty, followed fellow underdogs Romania (1988), Canada (1993) and Samoa (2012) in embarrassing Wales on home soil.
Number eight Faletau, who is set to make his 100th Test match appearance in the Australia clash, said: “We have got to stick together as a team.
“We’ve shown we can bounce back from low points like this, so we will look to do the same next week.
“We have got to stick together as a group, management and players.
“They put us under a lot of pressure around the park. They are big physical men, and they showed that.”
Wales have won their last three Tests against Australia, but Pivac’s cause is not helped by the latest encounter falling outside World Rugby’s autumn fixture window.
That means players not based in Wales – the list includes Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit, Saracens centre Nick Tompkins and Exeter forward Christ Tshiunza – are unavailable.
Pivac said: “We will go away and review everything, from preparation to the game itself, and we will leave no stone unturned in the review process.
“Every time you lose a game, it leaves a scar, doesn’t it. We are in the game to win Test matches.
“Next week is no different. We know we have them in our (World Cup) pool. We need a big week and a very strong performance.
“This is a setback. We are not hiding away from that, and we are not proud of that result.”