Under pressure - Wales coach Wayne Pivac / © AFP
Wayne Pivac has insisted he will ignore the growing speculation surrounding his future as Wales coach ahead of Saturday's potentially make-or-break clash at home to Australia.
Wales go into their Autumn Nations Series finale at the Principality Stadium on the back of a woeful 13-12 defeat by Georgia in Cardiff last weekend, which came just eight months after they lost, again on home soil, to perennial Six Nations strugglers Italy.
Pivac has now presided over 19 defeats in 33 Tests since succeeding Warren Gatland, his fellow New Zealander, as Wales coach following a 2019 World Cup in Japan where the team reached the semi-finals.
But whether Pivac is still in charge for next year's global showpiece in France remains an open question.
Wales great Jamie Roberts said the former Scarlets boss faced "serious questions" following a defeat by Georgia where the Lelos kept the hosts scoreless in the second half as they rallied from 12-3 down at the interval.
But Pivac, asked about his future on Thursday after naming the team to play Australia, replied: "Other people make those decisions.
"I can't get sidetracked by those sort of things... It is very, very disappointing to be in this position."
The 60-year-old added: "As head coach, the responsibility lies with me for a lot of the decision-making. I don't shy away from that."
Pivac has recalled former captain Alun Wyn Jones to the run-on XV against the Wallabies, with the veteran 37-year-old lock and world record cap-holder, making his first international start since last season's Six Nations.
By contrast, 20-year-old Ospreys centre Joe Hawkins, who had just turned four when Wyn Jones first played for Wales, is set to make his Test debut in place of the injured Owen Watkin.
- 'Dangerous Australia' -
Wales are bidding for a fourth successive win over the Wallabies, but they have lost eight of their 11 matches so far this year.
And Wales will be without Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit, Saracens centre Nick Tompkins and Exeter forward Christ Tshiunza on Saturday as their English clubs are not obliged to release them for a fixture that falls outside World Rugby's international window.
Australia, also coached by a New Zealander in Dave Rennie, have problems of their own, with a raft of injuries and club commitments leading the Wallabies to make seven changes following a 13-10 loss to Ireland in Dublin last weekend.
Defeat on Saturday would condemn Australia, completing a punishing schedule of five Tests in as many weeks, to a 10th loss in 14 matches in 2022 and their worst calendar year since 1958.
But the Wallabies, one of Wales' pool rivals at the 2023 World Cup, have been involved in several single-point games while in Europe, beating Scotland 16-15 before losing to France (30-29) and Italy (28-27).
"What we do know about Australia is that they're a dangerous side whatever team they put out," said Pivac.
"We've seen that with the close games in this Autumn series. So we're expecting a very, very tough battle."