To hear Mike Friday describe his learning curve in America, you might think the 7s Eagles were languishing.
'Every state is like a European country', he observes. 'I'd learned the geography in school, but I'd no idea the cultures would be different'.
Culture is a primary topic with the first-year coach, one of four stepping stones in the USA's climb to a heady 7th place in the 7s World Series standings.
The 42-year-old, who played scrumhalf for USARFU chief executive Nigel Melville at London's Wasps and captained England 7s before going on to coach England and then Kenya, talks of a preseason squad of individuals with little sense of teamwork. Along with revising the team's strength and conditioning, he first moved to instill his view that winning teams comprise players making selfless decisions.
He is chiefly concerned to know: 'what does [the player] do to make the team better?' Then he turns the question on himself, asking how coaching helps players solve technical and tactical problems, a refreshing change from the many -- foreign and domestic alike -- who have lamented American players' lack of skills, experience, and so on. '"They're not good players" is not an excuse for a good coach', he says.
The next steps are improved decision making at the breakdown, and better passing and tackling technique, both of which he expects to become habits. Taken together, the objective is to reduce the mental energy demanded by anticipatable, controllable facets of the game.
This leads to a fourth stage: mental resilience. Any US team which executes that which it can control should be good enough to challenge the 7s giants every time, Friday says, acknowledging this compentency is 'embryonic'. Getting shut out by South Africa in the Cup consolation final at Las Vegas rankles.
Friday, who doubles as coach of the London Scottish, is realistic about vaulting over England and Argentina to finish fourth on the 7s World Series, which would confer automatic qualification for the 2016 Summer Games. With June's NACRA 7s expected to amount to a winner-take-all showdown with Canada, mental toughness becomes the more important.
Other imported coaches have made a fast start in qualifying years. In 2006, Peter Thorburn's XV ran Ireland 'A' 28-13, a much-touted result, before conceding a record 49-point World Cup loss to Canada. The team never recovered, in 2007 posting a first-ever winless season.
It's clear the abbreviated code now fuels rugby's trajectory in the US. In the past decades, not only the learning curve has grown.
Vancouver has been awarded a Sevens World Series tournament and will be paired with Las Vegas, which will move to March and widen its field to 64 meters from 58, nearer to the World Rugby standard of 68. The change mitigates the event's cost of transporting teams from Wellington, New Zealand, but may also siphon Canadian fans.