SIX NATIONS: Ireland sit with 'grumpy' halfback
Flyhalf Sexton kicked a towel in disgust as he left the fray late on in Ireland’s tetchy 26-16 win over Italy in Rome.
The taskmaster Kiwi conceded his British and Irish Lions halfbacks Sexton and Murray are still battling to regain their mojo, as Ireland overturned a 16-12 half-time deficit for an unconvincing bonus-point win.
“I think Johnny was a bit angry when he came off because he’d just been hit three times off the ball,” said Schmidt.
“I’m not saying any of it was illegal. They were well-timed challenges, some of them. He gets that every week, but he felt a degree of frustration about that.
“And Conor is frustrated, he felt that there should have been a decision made when the ball gets taken off him. I haven’t really looked at that to know. He’s grumpy and then there’s a real danger that you start trying too hard.
“You then tend to create pressure on yourself and then you don’t play well. You play best when your confidence is good, you have a sense of responsibility and you combine the two to be fluent in what you’re delivering.
“When players don’t get an early touch in the game that’s positive, that accumulates, that frustration.
“I’m proud of the players that they stayed calm enough to make sure we got the win and the five points.
“We’re still trying to get a rhythm for Johnny. And I think Conor’s still trying to find his feet. There’s a bit of a risk for Conor that he tries too hard. He’s frustrated that he’s not the smooth-running machine that he normally is.
“But I thought he put in some really nice kicks today. On the back of that, I’m hoping that he gets a bit of his confidence back. I think he’s going to keep building, and France will be another opportunity for him, all being equal.”