27 Jun 2016

All Black gamble pays off

4:32 pm on 27 June 2016

The gamble made by All Blacks coach Steve Hansen paid handsome dividends as his side completed a series sweep with a 46-6 third test victory over Wales in Dunedin.

Elliot Dixon in action for the All Blacks 2016.

Elliot Dixon in action for the All Blacks 2016. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The All Blacks had lost six stalwarts, including all-time greats Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, following the World Cup and Hansen was under pressure to see if his side could maintain the levels they had set in the previous four years.

He introduced six uncapped players, giving five a debut in the series, and used the match in Dunedin to give some of his more inexperienced squad members an opportunity to prove themselves ahead of the Rugby Championship.

The side did exactly what he wanted, albeit against a Wales team who looked like they were ready to head home after halftime following 54 weeks of constant rugby.

"If anyone had said you are going to lose 818 caps and do what we have done over the last three weeks, you'd be happy" Hansen told reporters.

"Not many teams would carry on as if that hadn't happened. Particularly with the quality of the people that we lost.

Israel Dagg scores against Wales 2016.

Israel Dagg scores against Wales 2016. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

"We have got better with each game, we have blooded a lot of new people, we have a new leadership group and a new skipper - all of whom have done really well.

"We are not the finished article yet (but) ... we have answered a lot of questions that need answered."

Hansen was pleased with all his new players but made mention of the impact of George Moala, who was not in the original squad but was brought in as an injury replacement for Charlie Ngatai.

Moala, who made his debut on the wing last year against Samoa, was named at centre - a problem area for Hansen as he tries to replace the experienced pairing of Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu - for his second test appearance.

The 25-year-old was a handful for the Welsh midfield of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies with several powerful runs and scored a try before he suffered an arm injury.

"Yeah it's a shame he couldn't stay out there because ... the Welsh didn't handle him too well.

"But he really put his hand up."

Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Wayne Smith, Dunedin 2016.

Steve Hansen, Ian Foster and Wayne Smith, Dunedin 2016. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

As Hansen had juggled his selections, the make-up of the squad was not as balanced as it has been in the past.

The All Blacks ended the game with wingers Waisake Naholo and Ben Smith in the midfield and fullback Israel Dagg on the wing while flyhalf Beauden Barrett had shifted back to replace Dagg.

"Yeah, that doesn't do us any harm to do that because some time we might end up in a crisis and they will have to do it," Hansen said. "It will give them confidence."