Wales, beset by injury and poor form, have an added incentive to end a miserable month on a winning note when they host Australia on Saturday with a place in the second band of seeds for the 2015 World Cup Pool draw at stake.
The Welsh, World Cup semi-finalists last year before securing the Six Nations grand slam in 2012, have lost six matches in a row but will stay in the world’s top eight if they beat the Wallabies or hold them to a draw in Cardiff.
Lose, however, and the seventh-ranked Welsh will be leapfrogged by Samoa and Argentina and consigned to the third band with Italy, Tonga and Scotland, leaving them a huge task at the World Cup.
The challenge facing Wales has not been made easier by an ever-growing injury list after the 33-10 loss to world champions New Zealand on Saturday, which followed home defeats in November to Argentina and Samoa.
Wales have delayed naming their team for 48 hours until Thursday.
Prop prop Aaron Jarvis has already been ruled out, lock Bradley Davies is recovering from severe concussion and six other players are on the injury list, including centre Jamie Roberts who will not train in the early part of the week.
Victories for New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and France on Saturday guaranteed the top four sides in the world their band one seeding for the draw in London on December 3, which means they avoid playing each other until the knockout stages.
Sixth-ranked Ireland’s resounding 46-24 win over Argentina on Saturday secured their place in the second band of seeds, which as it stands now, also features England, Wales and Samoa.
Argentina have dropped three places to ninth. Samoa and the Pumas both have a rating of 78.71 but when extended to 15 decimal places the difference between the two is less than one thousandth of a rating point.
England’s rating has gone down following home defeats by Australia and South Africa, allowing World Cup finalists France, who have beaten Australia, Argentina and Samoa this month, to usurp them and take their place in the elite quartet.