Josh Macleod: Wales ‘pushing hard for Australia’ after ‘honest’ Georgia debrief

Josh Macleod believes Wales are ready for Australia’s challenge after some “very honest” conversations following a humiliating defeat against Georgia.

Wales will end the international year – one that has been scarred by home losses to Georgia and Italy – on Saturday by targeting a fourth successive victory over the Wallabies.

But the playing squad, head coach Wayne Pivac and his staff are under enormous pressure in the aftermath of a result that Wales skills specialist Neil Jenkins described as being among his country’s darkest days.

Wayne Pivac
Wales head coach Wayne Pivac is under pressure following poor results (Joe Giddens/PA)

Macleod made his Test debut in the 13-12 loss, and he is again likely to be involved in Wales’ matchday 23 against Australia.

Pivac names his team on Thursday, with a possible recall for world record cap holder Alun Wyn Jones headlining that selection.

And number eight Taulupe Faletau is poised to make his 100th appearance for Wales and the British and Irish Lions as Pivac is set to to rely heavily on experience.

Six expected starters – Jones, Faletau, full-back Leigh Halfpenny, centre George North, hooker Ken Owens and captain Justin Tipuric – have 626 Wales caps between them.

Wales, though, have won just three games from 11 starts this year, and even success against an injury-hit Australia might not be enough for Pivac to survive.

But there is also a piercing spotlight on Welsh Rugby Union chiefs, who must decide whether a change of coach is the right response just 10 months out from a World Cup.

Wales debriefed the Georgia debacle on Monday, and Scarlets forward Macleod said: “They (conversations) were very honest.

“It was a good day and we got a lot out of it. I think we have wiped that slate clean and now we are really pushing hard for Australia.

“As a squad, we were massively frustrated and disappointed with the result as a whole, but as Toby (Faletau) mentioned after the game, we are going to stick as one – management, players and staff.

“We’ve put Georgia to bed and all the disappointment with that, and we will move forward to this week with a positive attitude.

“Naturally, everyone says there will be a reaction after a defeat like that. Come Saturday, I am sure whoever takes the field will be ready.”

Macleod’s first cap was the only feelgood story to emerge for Wales as Georgia took centre-stage in Cardiff.

Josh Macleod
Josh Macleod won his first Wales cap in a 13-12 defeat against Georgia (Joe Giddens/PA)

He had been selected to start in Wales’ Six Nations appointment with Scotland last year, but ruptured his Achilles tendon during a training session four days before the game.

He also gained selection for Wales’ 2020 autumn squad, yet a hamstring injury ruled him out of that campaign.

“It has been a tough time since the last call-up. I was just glad to get that monkey off my back,” Macleod added.

“I changed my routine a bit – more recovery, a bit less weights – and I try to be out on the training park as much as I can because I find that builds a little bit of resilience to all these niggles and stuff.

“I have never struggled physically with getting myself back in shape from an injury and from a rehab perspective.

“I’ve had my fair share of bad luck in the past with injuries, but it has always been a one-off, then rehab and then you are back on the pitch.

“But those hits virtually together make you feel a little bit separated from the boys because you are constantly rehabbing and you are never on the training pitch.

“Mentally, that was the hardest part for me, but thankfully we are over that now.”