FRESH from another top-notch display capped off with a 40 metre dash to the tryline, Luke Thompson bounces into Thursday night's derby clash with relish.

It an encounter that has always meant plenty to him, having been schooled at St Edmond Arrowsmith in Ashton, surrounded by Wigan supporters.

The strong running front rower played in the same school team as two future cherry white three-quarters - Joe Burgess and Oliver Gildart - but there was always only one team for him.

Thompson, a former junior with Pilkington Recs and Bold Miners, had to use a bit of creativity to ensure that his career path led to St Helens and not Wigan.

Thompson explained: "At 16 Wigan offered me a deal but I chose Saints.

"I went to school in Ashton, so when you first go for your school town team trial you have to go and play for Wigan because that is your postcode.

"So my family put me down at my nan’s address so I could go to the St Helens trial, that is where I wanted to play."

Although it is top versus second, with Saints eight points clear at the summit and facing a Wigan side hit by injuries and suffering a patchy spell since the announcement of Shaun Wane's departure, Thompson reckons that will count for little come 7.45pm.

"Sometimes it does not really matter about how team’s are playing going into these derbies," he said.

"Everyone rises and steps up and that is what makes it a great game.

"It is one of the games I always looked forward to and when I was growing up I always loved watching them.

"I have been involved in a few now and it is a special game with a great atmosphere."

The 23-year-old has been a stand-out player this season, so much so that soon after he was named in the England Knights training squad he was propelled into Wayne Bennett's 19 to go with the national team to Denver.

Although he was the unlucky player to miss out on the final selection versus the Kiwis, Thompson saw it as an opportunity to learn and develop.

And there is a determination, that should he continue to do the bread and butter things he has been doing at Saints, what happens at the end of year will take care of itself.

Thompson said: "I was over the moon to get selected and could not believe it at first.

"It has always been a lifelong ambition to represent my country. I went away with them on that tour and although I was not selected, I was not too disappointed because it was a step in the direction of where I want to be.

"It was great to be part of it.

"I would love to be involved in the England squad for the test series, but I am not getting too ahead of myself.

"My focus is at club level at St Helens first and I will take that each week, working hard and being consistent. Do that and my form here should take me where I want to be.

"This time of year is always the best time because all the games you want to be involved in so I am really looking forward to the next couple of months."

And having been head and shoulders above the rest all year, it is that massive task in Super League and Challenge Cup that the Saints team now faces in the games that count.

As always in rugby league, the platform laid by the big men in the middle will decide whether the silver polish will be needed to be ordered for the first time since 2014.

Remarkably, those middles have achieved this so far this year with Alex Walmsley, who broke a neck bone in March.

It has meant the others have had to step up to fill that void - a challenge Thompson feels the Saints' front row union has responded to.

"Big Al was a big loss – but we all feel as though we have stepped up.

"We train really hard, get on with each other and it is showing on the field.

"I set myself no targets at the start of the season, I just wanted to do my best for the team.

"If you train hard, that is what gives you the form. I feel like I have been pretty consistent this year and that comes through everything I do off the field," he said.