New Zealand’s management are pleased with the manner in which the home side secured the third Test in Dunedin 46-6 against Wales and with that the three-match Test series 3-0.
Coach Steve Hansen said after the Test the side had got better each game, they had blooded new people, they had a new leadership group and a new captain, and they had all done well.
This was the first Test series after the McCaw and Carter era which saw the All Blacks become the first side to successfully defend their World Cup title at last year’s campaign.
“We’ve answered a lot of questions we need answered,” Hansen added.
“Is our game where we want it to be – no, but it never is. We’ll strive to get better at that but we’re very happy.
“Losing a little bit more than 800 caps, not many Test teams would carry on as if that hadn’t happened, particularly with the quality of people that we lost so we’re very happy.”
Hansen said the big emphasis for the All Blacks in Dunedin had been improving on their start and by cutting down the errors from the amount made in the second Test in Wellington they had been able to put pressure on Wales earlier in the game.
The momentum they built they were then able to take right through the first half and into the second half while improving their defence structures as well.
“We got off the line and were reasonably fearsome in our tackling,” he said.
“There’s still lots of our game we have to improve on but if anyone had said you’re going to lose 818 caps and come out and do what we’ve done over the last three weeks you’d be very happy so we are, but we’re not the finished article yet,” he said.
The introduction of new players had been a positive from the game.
“Elliot [Dixon] was good, then Ofa [Tu’ungafasi] came on and he played particularly well and Liam Squire I thought was great. Beauden [Barrett] at first five and then going back to fullback played a really good 80 minutes of rugby,” he said.
Hansen acknowledged full-back Israel Dagg’s return to top form.
He got injured last year but had a great off-season and had come back to show his best touches.
“He’s back to the player we know he can be and when he’s like that he’s world-class,” he said.
There were some tough decisions ahead for the Rugby Championship as a result of Dagg’s form.
When there was Dagg and Ben Smith, and then Waisake Naholo and Julian Savea on the wings there were calls to be made.
“We’re going to have to make some choices when they are all playing well,” Hansen said.
“His [Dagg’s] form at the moment is going to make it very difficult to leave him out. Ben’s form, he had an outstanding game on the wing – it wouldn’t matter where you play him he is such a good rugby player, so both of them will be there somewhere.”
Captain Kieran Read said the intention had been to not give Wales a sniff, they had managed to hold them out in a couple of crucial situations.
“The leaders have learnt a lot of these three Tests, we’re all learning so it will do us a lot of good leading into the Championship later,” Read said.
Read said Dixon and Squire had both played well on debut. Dixon had showed his abrasive side and got off the line really well and got some dominant hits early which was what had been seen before from All Blacks No.6s.
“He made himself count when he was out there, he just didn’t get the opportunity on attack. I think Liam, when he came on, showed a great maturity and showed the skills he has. It was a messy time in the game but he really stepped up,” he said.