The Rugby World Cup trophy – the Webb Ellis Cup – has been to Los Angeles as part of a promotional tour ahead of this year’s tournament in Japan.
Touring the city's major sights including Hollywood, the trophy met Scottish film star and rugby fan Gerard Butler, before being pictured with waxworks of various other stars of the big screen including Morgan Freeman and Chris Hemsworth at Madame Tussauds.
The trophy visited some of the city’s most iconic sporting venues including Staples Center – home of the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team – and Dignity Health Sports Park, where both National Football League team Los Angeles Chargers and Major League Soccer side Los Angeles Galaxy play.
Former captain of the United States men’s rugby team and their most-capped player, Todd Clever, joined the tour, as did another former player, Dallen Stanford.
They took part in a beach rugby session with local clubs beside the famous Santa Monica Pier, before visiting Emerson Middle School where more than 100 children aged between 11 and 13 took part in a rugby tournament in front of the Webb Ellis Cup.
One of the tournament sponsors, DHL, gave the school a “get into rugby” kit featuring a ball, bibs and cones, before another sponsor, Land Rover, picked one pupil to run out alongside the United States team when they play Argentina in the World Cup group stage, as the team’s mascot.
Sabrina was chosen as a pupil and player “who truly embodies the values of the game”.
“Having the Rugby World Cup here in the USA is a huge boost to us and seeing the reaction of the pupils at Emerson Middle School and all the tour stops just cements the opportunity,” Clever said.
“People want to know more, get involved and start playing or even just find out where to go and watch a game.”
He added that the mascot prize was “phenomenal”.
“To be in seventh grade and know you are going to Japan to run out with the captain in front of millions of fans is just amazing,” he said.
With Los Angeles set to host the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Webb Ellis Cup also toured the LA84 Foundation, looking back on the last Games in the city 35 years ago.
The chief executive of USA Rugby, Ross Young, said the body had been “delighted” to host the Rugby World Cup trophy tour.
“The lead into Japan 2019 is a really exciting time for the team and the fans and to give them access to the Webb Ellis Cup has been great,” he said.
“The tour gives us a huge opportunity to engage more fans and more players using the story and intrigue of this very special trophy.
“We have a strong ambition to grow the game in the USA and a Rugby World Cup is the perfect opportunity to do that.”
Los Angeles in the US was the 15th stop of a 20-nation trophy tour, with the Webb Ellis Cup now heading to Canada.
The World Cup is set to begin in Japan on Friday, September 20, when the hosts play Russia in Tokyo.
It will end with the final on November 2 in Yokohama.