GROWING up in Billinge and playing his junior rugby with Orrell St James Jonny Lomax learned from a very young age just what Saints v Wigan rivalry means, particularly on the border between the towns.

Lomax, now in his 11th season at Saints, was steered on a red vee path by his parents when some of his St James pals opted for the Cherry and Whites.

And over the years, from terrace to centre stage, he has tasted that banter and rivalry from the front line of the fiercest rivalry in the 13-man code.

Lomax, who has just started his testimonial year, said: "The rivalry between the towns has been going on for so long - we are so close as well.

"Growing up in Billinge I was brought up on the rivalry with the crossovers.

"We have a Wigan postcode, but come under St Helens Council - and then I played at Orrell where the Wigan team train.

"There has always been plenty of banter between the two.

"I have done that rivalry sat in the stands, screaming at the TV and now I am lucky enough to play a part in it."

Thursday night's game kicks off the new beginnings for Super League, with last year's one v two launching an important re-boot year for the sport.

It will be something of a new look Wigan this time around without the huge presence of Shaun Wane in the stands and missing pugnacious pair Sam Tomkins and John Bateman on the park.

They did move to bring in Zak Hardaker, fresh from his ban, and he will add something to the Warriors attack.

Lomax does not expect Wigan to be diminished by the changes to their ranks, particularly with their title-winning spine still in place.

Lomax said: "If Adrian Lam just builds on what they have got they are going to build another great side that is going to be difficult to beat.

"They have lost some good players, but they have signed some too.

"Sam has gone and Zak has come in, but if you look at Sean O'Loughlin, Tommy Leuluai, Sam Powell and George Williams - they are a quality spine that has been together for a long time.

"They understand each other and have really good combinations. And in big games they generally come up with the big plays.

"We will have to nullify that."

Being on England duty with O'Loughlin has given Lomax a fuller understanding of what makes the long-serving Wigan skipper tick.

"You know how good of a player when you are playing against him, but being with Lockers for England you see his involvement and the influence he has on a game.

"He is a such a great leader and you see why Wigan have such a good culture," Lomax said.

There have been changes in the Saints ranks too, with Joseph Paulo, Kevin Naiqama and Lachlan Coote joining from the NRL.

He is developing his understanding with Coote, who has shown enough skills in training and in the warm-up game to show what a class act he is.

Lomax said: "Lachlan has played at full back for such a long time now, and his ability to work the three v twos is really good.

"He is a real silky player, with skills, as you would expect if you were part of a spine (at North Queensland) that includes Michael Morgan and Johnathan Thurston. You are not in that spine unless you are something special - and that is what he is."