Wales captain Sam Warburton believes the All Blacks may well have done Welsh rugby a favour over the past few weeks by providing a route map for the future development of the leading players.
Among the biggest lessons learned over the course of three tough test matches against the two-time world champions, perhaps the biggest was how ruthless the All Blacks can be – and how creative, how physical and how relentless.
The All Blacks finished off the three-match Test series on on Saturday with 46-6 victory in Dunedin to wrap up a whitewash series 3-0.
Warburton believes that despite four loses, which include a humiliating mid-week defeat to Super Rugby side the Chiefs, they put up brave and spirited efforts.
“We gave it everything we had to give, but they were just way too good for us in Dunedin,” Warburton said.
“We fell off too many tackles and I don’t know what the reason for that was exactly. It was one of those days when they were a heck of a lot better than us and we just had to put our hands up and say it was one of those days. It was definitely a tough one.
“But being exposed to that level of rugby is only going to benefit us in the long run. It might have been better if we’d gone home after those first two tests, but I’m glad we had the third game because it was a bit of a reality check.
“It made us all realise what we’ve got to work on when we get home – our physicality, fitness levels and individual skills.”
The All Blacks ended up with 16 tries in the three games and for once Wales failed to grab a try of their own on the fast hard and dry track under the Forsyth Barr Stadium roof.
The visitors were highly competitive in the first two tests, led at the end of the third quarter of the third, but then ran out of steam.
“The strength in depth they have in New Zealand is remarkable and I realised that when we played the Chiefs,” the Wales captain added.
“They had eight players out with the All Blacks, but they were great as well,” added Warburton. It made me realise that if there was a World Cup and you had to put in a fourth or fifth team, New Zealand would be way ahead of everyone else. The amount of talent they have got is frightening.
“They may have lost Carter, McCaw, Nonu, Smith and all of those great players, but that doesn’t make a difference here. They lose a little bit of experience, but they have some super players to come in – that’s why they are the best rugby nation in the world.”