The Wales series is over and the Rugby Championship awaits. Patrick McKendry ponders the hits and misses for the All Blacks.

Who deserves to be happiest with his series?

Israel Dagg. You would need a heart of stone not be won over by Dagg's enthusiasm over the past fortnight.

Selected at fullback for the tests in Wellington and Dunedin, Dagg returned to the form he showed at the 2011 World Cup (he wasn't selected for the last one). He scored a try in each test and even looked like he was having fun in press conferences.


Dagg's form under the roof on Saturday suggested he will be a big part of Hansen's thinking for his team's next assignment - a Bledisloe Cup test against the wounded Wallabies in Sydney on August 20.

Israel Dagg has shown in the last two tests a return to the form that saw him star at the 2011 World Cup. Photo / Getty Images.
Israel Dagg has shown in the last two tests a return to the form that saw him star at the 2011 World Cup. Photo / Getty Images.

Why? Because in the third test he combined brilliantly with Ben Smith on the right wing - who was excellent as usual - and Hansen might decide that Waisake Naholo needs more work before being thrust into a high-octane test at ANZ Stadium.

So where is Waisake Naholo at?

Extremely hot, but similarly cold at times at Eden Park on the right wing in the first test, Naholo was shifted to the left in place of Julian Savea in Wellington, and was okay - penalty conceded for taking out a leaping Liam Williams apart - before being benched for the third test.

It was here, after he came on in the final 32 minutes as a replacement for the injured George Moala that it all got a bit loose.

Simply put, Naholo lost the ball too often, and a similar casual attitude to possession against Australia or South Africa could be very costly.

He can be a supreme attacking talent but sometimes needs to play it safe. On the evidence of this series, Naholo doesn't do safe.

What have we learned about Beauden Barrett, and where does he fit in?

Barrett showed in Dunedin as Aaron Cruden's replacement that he can start tests with the confidence and skill with which he generally finishes them - even in the driver's seat of No10. He was spectacular there and at fullback late in the game.

A special talent with uncanny pace and ability to see space, Barrett is pushing for a starting spot at first-five.

Will he get it ahead of Aaron Cruden in Sydney, assuming everyone is fit? It's unlikely, because the reserves bench is so much weaker without him. He is the best replacement in world rugby, with loose forward Ardie Savea showing potential there, too.

What can we make of Kieran Read's performance as fulltime captain?

Assured. Had to recover from a halftime deficit at Eden Park, and from 10-all in Wellington without a hint of alarm.

But that wasn't surprising given he did a lot of the on-field leadership even when Richie McCaw was on the field.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read charges into contact. Photo / Getty Images.
All Blacks captain Kieran Read charges into contact. Photo / Getty Images.

Read's performances at No8 were also excellent. His offloads often tied the Welsh in knots and his defence would have turned them various shades of black and blue. A key lineout operator for the ABs, too.

Best celebration of a significant milestone?

Dagg celebrated his recall and 50th test in Wellington with a try, while lock Brodie Retallick celebrated his in Dunedin by knocking the Welsh ball runners from whence they came. There was a group of Retallick supporters in the crowd wearing "Brodie's 50th test" T-shirts, and it spent the majority of the test cheering his tackles, a variation of the football "Ole!" Others in the crowd winced.

Any other surprises?

The power and explosiveness of loose forwards Ardie Savea and Liam Squire from the reserves bench, left wing Julian Savea's form issues, and Wales' competitiveness for 60 minutes at Eden Park, where they troubled the All Blacks with their skill and ambition (and George North's size and power).

George Moala must come into this category as well for his performance at centre in Dunedin, where he showed composure, power and pace, before retiring with an elbow injury. A promising performance from the Blues midfielder.