Football tends to get all of the attention around this time of year, especially at Arizona State University, where expectations on the gridiron are high.

However, there’s another sport that involves tackling and an oblong-shaped ball that’s starting to draw international attention to the Sun Devils.

ASU’s rugby club recently partnered with the Australian rugby team Brumbies, a powerhouse in the world rugby scene, to open an academy at the university to help train and develop talent for both clubs. The partnership is the first of its kind, said ASU rugby coach Gary Lane.

“We at Arizona State had been looking for a professional partner, or a partner that plays in a professional league, to be able to offer pathways to our players,” he said. “They agreed to provide the intellectual property for (the program) and provide the coaching and that’s how it came together.”

The Brumbies play in the Super Rugby league, which is essentially the NFL of rugby union in the Southern Hemisphere. By partnering with them, ASU’s rugby club is opening doors for players who wish to play at the next level.

“One of the things that isn’t done currently, or there’s not a lot of in the U.S., is professional pathways,” Lane said. “What this offers the athlete … it offers them a pathway to professionalism in a different sport and ASU is the conduit for that pathway.

“This academy will provide them the skills and the tools and the exposure to receive a professional contract.”

The ASU players will train with the Brumbies coaching staff during the offseason by doing lifting regimens as well as skill testing throughout the summer months, Lane said. In addition, after the ASU club rugby season, players will have the opportunity to go to Australia to train with the Brumbies or another professional team.

The Brumbies and ASU will hold a combine to test prospective players Sept. 20 and the academy will officially begin in January 2015.

“There’s a (program) of testing and at the end of it, they’ll give you an analysis of what you need to work on as an athlete,” Lane said of the combine.

While working with the Brumbies offers the opportunity for collegiate players to turn pro once they finish their time in college, it is also helping to ensure the club’s long-term future.

“Number one, it gives us exposure,” Lane said. “Number two, it gives us leverage with the recruits that we have something no other program in the country has. And it attracts people from all over the world.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or Follow him on Twitter at @Eric_Smith__.

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