Jonny Wilkinson returned to rugby for Newcastle Falcons last weekend, leading to hopes that he may play a part in Sunday’s semi-final against London Irish…

Having come through his comeback unscathed, Newcastle Falcons fly half Jonny Wilkinson was just glad to be back out on the pitch.

Wilkinson’s 40-minute contribution helped the Falcons to a 32-21 victory over Sale Sharks on Sunday, preserving their Guinness Premiership status, and he said afterwards: “The best thing about today was the enjoyment factor.

“It was a lovely day to be playing against an ambitious team like Sale, and that enabled both teams to play the kind of rugby they like to play.

“The pace of it is difficult when you’re coming off the bench after having so many months away, so there was a bit of a burn going on in the old legs after about 20 minutes, especially near the end when the play went on for ages without a stoppage.

“But it was really nice to be back and playing with the likes of Matt Burke, Mathew Tait, Jamie Noon and Tom May. I’ve missed playing with all of the Newcastle lads, and especially Burkey because he’s been at the club for two years and I’ve hardly been on the same pitch as the bloke.”

With Aussie World Cup winner Burke maintaining kicking duties throughout, Wilkinson explained: “Burkey’s the most relaxed bloke you could wish to meet, and when I came on he just said ‘do you fancy it mate?’ to which I said you’re doing well, there’s no point in changing for the sake of it.

“If I’d been needed I wouldn’t have had a problem with kicking goals, but Burkey is world class and is more than capable so it wasn’t an issue at all.”

With plenty of physical collisions greeting his comeback, Wilkinson said of his reduced contact workload during the week: “Tackline is 20 per cent technique and 80 per cent desire really.

“That’s always been something I haven’t had to work on massively, going out there and getting stuck in has never been a problem. I knew I would have to see how the first few hits out there went.

“The boys have been smashed around all season, so I can’t exactly go up to them and say let’s do two hours of full-on big hits in training during the week. If I did that I might get some serious contact of my own!”

With all things Falcons of utmost importance, Wilkinson said: “The consequences of defeat today would have gone far beyond losing a rugby match. People’s jobs were on the line.

“In terms of keeping Newcastle in the Premiership I’ve only played a tiny part, and it’s the lads who were there slogging away in the winter that have really done the job in that regard. They’re the ones who have fought for those one-pointers, and I’ve just jumped on the bus at the last stop I suppose.

“It’s nice to be safe now, because with the squad we have and the ambition I see every day in training we just feel we shouldn’t be down at that end of the table. But that’s the reality of the situation and we’ve just dealt with it.”

Wilkinson – who until a sucessuon of injuries – was the first name on the Falcons’ team sheet, should be available for next weekends crunch semi-final against London Irish.

Falcons director of rugby Rob Andrew is expected to name his side on Thursday or Friday.