New Edinburgh centre Juan Pablo Socino is hoping some big performances in the Heineken Champions Cup can propel him back into the Argentina side ahead of next year’s World Cup.
The 30-year-old summer signing from Newcastle Falcons has only four Pumas caps to his name from 2015 but hopes that the loosening of Argentina’s selection policy regarding overseas-based players combined with exposure in club rugby’s biggest competition can reinvigorate his Test career.
Socino came in for the dropped Matt Scott in Friday’s Guinness PRO14 win over the Cheetahs and it remains to be seen if Edinburgh coach Richard Cockerill sticks with the Argentine or brings the Scotland centre back for Saturday’s huge test in the Pool 5 opener away to Montpellier.
The former Jaguares man is just hoping to get a chance to show what he can do at the highest level and that it is noted back in his homeland.
“Hopefully, that’s the plan,” he said. “Obviously when you play for your country you want to play again. It’s a bit different because the last time I played after the World Cup they changed the rules and they weren’t going to pick overseas players any more, so I knew at the time that wasn’t going to be an option any more because I was happy where I was in the UK at the time.
“Now they’ve opened it up a little bit more, I’m hoping my performances at the club and playing European rugby can help me get back into the team.”
Socino believes the short move up the A1 from Newcastle, who he could face again in a pool that also includes Toulon, is a refreshing new challenge in a career which has also seen him play for Rotherham and French club Dax.
“I spent four seasons at Newcastle. My contract was coming towards the end and I was weighing up the options,” he explained. “Whether to stay in the English Premiership or whether to take on a new challenge coming to the PRO14, a new city, new country and it was really exciting.
“I knew what the team was about, all the changes that had been made with Cockers coming in. That was quite important for me. It went through my agent, but I had a private conversation with him and he talked to my wife and we both decided it was the best option.
“For me, it was more where he wanted to be as a club and I just wanted to be part of that, putting the team and the city where he thinks it belong.”
Socino featured in pre-season, including the game against his former club where his hooker brother Santiago Socino still plays, and has worked his way more and more into Cockerill’s thinking as the season has unfolded.
“I had my first start against Leinster away which was a tough day, but I’m pleased to play close to 80 minutes [against Cheetahs] and get the win, so I’m really looking forward to the next challenges ahead,” said the man from Buenos Aires.
“It’s a different league and I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d been to the city before and I was a big fan. Me and my wife loved it, so I was really looking forward to it and the boys took me in really well. It’s a great group. The boys work really hard and I’ve blended in quite well I think, so I’m really pleased to be where I am at the minute.”
And not too far away from family, with the tantalising prospect of facing his brother again in the next round of European games in December.
“He’s four years younger than me. He’s enjoying his rugby there,” said Socino. “He’s become English qualified so that helps when it comes to European games and the LV Cup, not being qualified as a foreigner.
“I could be up against him. We played in pre-season which was a first. My parents were here so it was an enjoyable moment. It could happen again in December and it’s always nice when you go back and see familiar faces and friends and having my brother there is something I look forward to as well. I didn’t want to ask who my parents were supporting. I’m the oldest, first born so that should answer it ..”
As for Saturday’s game, Socino respects the challenge ahead but believes there will be opportunities for the Edinburgh backs. “I think French clubs tend to play a bit more loose, a bit less structured to what we’re used to,” he said. “That can sometimes be seen as a weakness and sometimes as an advantage, so I think we need to bear that in mind when we go into the game.”