Newcastle Falcons centre Johnny Williams has thanked supporters for their positive messages, having played his first game of rugby since being diagnosed with testicular cancer over the summer.
Williams played the first half on Saturday as a Falcons XV defeated Watsonians 31-5 in Melrose, saying afterwards: “It was really good to have a little runaround and get that first half under my belt.
“I’ve come a long way since the summer when I was diagnosed, and it’s great to be back playing some competitive rugby again and be back with the Falcons boys.”
Taking time to thank those behind the countless messages of support which have come his way since news of his cancer became public knowledge, he said: “It’s been huge for me to have so many messages on social media from supporters, players at other clubs, people within the game and just general well-wishers.
“I read every single one of them, and it really does mean a lot to know I’ve got so many people out there backing me and wishing me all the best.
“It drives me to keep working hard and to get out there on the field again as quickly as I possibly can, so to everyone who has made a comment or just had positive thoughts towards it, I can’t thank you enough.”
Having undergone chemotherapy and come through a gradual progression in training, the man who scored on his England debut against the Barbarians last May said: “So far, so good.
“The old lungs were tested today, as I knew they would be, but I only played a half and it wasn’t too bad.
“The Falcons’ strength and conditioning guys have managed me really well over the past few months. My running load and gym load was managed carefully, and then reached a point where I could join in with the rest of the team training.
“I had a few weeks of that and then graduated up to doing the full-contact training, and from there the plan was always to get a half of rugby into me today.
“The next step will be getting 80 minutes or thereabouts under my belt, but until that happens I’ll just keep training hard and trying to push my case for selection.
“We’ve got a lot of good players at the club so I’m certainly not taking anything for granted on that side of things, but I’m just keen to get out there again and to help the club get promoted back into the Premiership.”