Wayne Pivac has labelled Wales “our own worst enemies” as his struggling side look to end a damaging losing streak with victory over Georgia on Saturday.
Normally, a match against the second-tier Lelos would be a chance to experiment safe in the knowledge that the result would take care of itself without too much trouble.
But while Pivac has made 13 changes to his starting XV, Wales will kick off at Llanell’s Parc Y Scarlets on a run of six straight defeats.
Former Wales captain Sam Warburton has labelled the Georgia match a “must-win” game after a woeful sequence of losses for Pivac’s men continued with a 32-9 defeat by Ireland in their Autumn Nations Cup opener in Dublin last week.
It is all a far cry from when Pivac succeeded Warren Gatland, his fellow New Zealander, as head coach last year with Wales having just reached a World Cup semi-final after winning the Six Nations with a Grand Slam.
“At the moment, we’ve been our own worst enemies,” Pivac told a conference call on Thursday after naming his team to play Georgia.
“We’re giving teams far too much possession and territory and staying in games for long periods even without those stats heavily against us.
“It’s focusing on eliminating mistakes, working hard in training and making good decisions.”
As for the stress of the Wales job, former Scarlets boss Pivac said: “It’s been the same as the Six Nations before lockdown, only you don’t have the crowds.
“There’s also pressure coming into the role. It goes with the territory.
“For me personally, I’m remaining focused on doing what’s best for these players and make sure we give them the environment where they can express themselves, where they can grow and learn as players.”
– ‘Impressive Botham’ –
Pivac has given a Wales debut to James Botham, the grandson of England cricket great Ian Botham.
The 22-year-old Cardiff Blues flanker, only officially called into the squad on Monday, has played just 13 professional games.
But Pivac has seen enough to give Botham, whose father Liam played for Cardiff, his Test chance.
“We had a good look at James earlier in the campaign,” Pivac said. “He has impressed, he has done very well.
“In (flankers) Ross Moriarty and Josh Navidi, we’ve had a couple of guys who have not been able to partake so far, so James has been in and around the group. He is a player with a very big future, we believe.
“In training, he is a very balanced rugby player. He’s got very good hands and movement with the ball, so he is a good attacking threat as well as a very good defensive player.
“He is good over the ball, he’s strong and his technique is sound. He’s a confident young man without being over-confident.
“I’ve been very impressed with just the conversations we have been having, both about rugby and off-field situations — just learning more about the young man. There is a lot to like about him.”