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Beginning of new All Blacks era?

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 26/06/2016

What retired greats?

The All Blacks made it clear they're moving on from the McCaw-Carter era by dispatching Wales in imperious fashion in Dunedin to complete three weeks of rapid improvement.

Even coach Steve Hansen was surprised by the emphatic nature of the 46-6 third Test win, in which his experimental team ran in six unanswered tries.

Wales were clearly fatigued at the end of an arduous season, with Hansen suggesting some players might have been "already on the plane".

However, he said that shouldn't detract from the quality and significance of their display.

It was, Hansen said, the first tangible sign that last year's World Cup glory and the departure of greats such as former skipper Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Keven Mealamu was now an afterthought.

"Not many Test teams would just carry on as if that hadn't happened, particularly with the quality of people that we lost," Hansen said.

"If you look at what we've achieved, we've won the series 3-0, we've got better each game and we've blooded new people.

"Is our game where we want it to be? No, but it never is."

New Zealand needed superior fitness and bench depth to pull clear late in the first two Tests - won 39-21 in Auckland and 36-22 in Dunedin.

After a patchy start, they dominated the collisions and their backline thrived on space, even when they finished the Test with four of them playing out of position because of injuries to midfielders George Moala and Ryan Crotty.

Hansen admitted he had nerves heading into the series, wondering if he had his selection mix right and the correct leadership group of players around new skipper Kieran Read.

He said Read had delivered superbly and reckoned his different captaincy approach to McCaw had been a bonus.

"I'm not saying that one is better than the other but it's just different and that's been refreshing.

"And we've seen people stand up tall and grow when, before, they were probably a little bit quiet or didn't feel that they had to drive it because someone else was."

Read says the blooding of a new wave of players gives him cause of optimism heading into the Rugby Championship.

He was especially excited by Highlanders loose forwards Elliot Dixon and Liam Squire, who both made accomplished debuts on Saturday.

Read praised the rookie pair for adjusting to New Zealand's high-octane game plan, particularly as neither had played a game for nearly a month.

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