CARDIFF - Rhys Priestland warned Wales they face a dark day in Cardiff on Saturday against the All Blacks if they repeat their desperate showing against Georgia.
Warren Gatland would not have learned a great deal from the win — frankly he would have breathed a deep sigh of relief when Wales escaped embarrassment.
In a thoroughly unsatisfactory climax, tighthead Tomas Francis was sin-binned, Wales said they had no fit props to replace him so Georgia’s super-charged scrum were denied the chance to hammer their nervous hosts from a scrum penalty when a converted try would have brought a draw, the finest result in their history.
Tighthead prop Leon Brown was at the centre of the controversy. The 21-year-old went off after 56 minutes having been gobbled up at the scrum by gnarled expert Mikheil Nariashvili, but was deemed unfit to return when his replacement Francis was binned. Wales said Brown had developed cramp on the sideline.
Referee Mathieu Raynal ordered the scrum the Georgians had opted for from their last-gasp penalty to be uncontested following eight-and-a-half minutes of deliberations.
Georgia then chose to use their penalty to force a line-out, a switch they should not have been allowed to make, and when they then conceded a penalty on the Welsh goal-line, their glorious quest for victory was over
With the black tanks of New Zealand rolling on to Cardiff lawns on Monday, Wales’s autumn is in danger of unravelling.
Having made 14 changes for the Georgia game after defeat by Australia the previous week, Gatland will make more for the All Blacks — giving no time for new combinations to bed in.
He has fitness worries with Liam Williams, who went off with a limp, and Samson Lee, who is still struggling. Justin Tipuric, though, should make a timely return.
Priestland, who said it would be a "big surprise" if he was picked next Saturday, knows Wales need to fix their problems fast.
"We have got to question how we let them in and put ourselves under so much pressure," he said. "That was disappointing.
"We are going to have to speak long and hard about it this week because with the All Blacks around the corner, you give them those opportunities and you are coming away conceding seven points. It is very disappointing that we let Georgia dictate the game."
Wales have only beaten their Tier 2 autumn opponents by more than 10 points once under Gatland, against Canada in 2008.
Victory on Saturday, however unconvincing, means there will not quite be a full inquest in Cardiff, but Priestland knows Wales must respond against the world champions.
"We have been in this situation before when we have perhaps underperformed in the game against a Tier 2 nation and everyone is doom and gloom," he said. "And then, changes happen and the boys up their game because if you don’t against the All Blacks it is going to be a very tough day at the office."
Georgia coach Milton Haig urged World Rugby to hand his side more top-level Tests. "If we get more of these games, I know we will get better," he said.
Haig was also convinced his team were at a disadvantage when the scrums became uncontested. Former Wales prop Adam Jones tweeted: "Wales had pulled the fastest one ever."
Meanwhile, All Blacks wing Rieko Ioane (shoulder) and second row Luke Romano (foot) will miss the Wales game.