SAINTS stand off Jonny Lomax is relishing tonight's clash at Warrington Wolves - and comes into the game fresh from a man of the match performance in the opening round.

Lomax expects the Wolves - who Saints beat three times last year in the league before losing at at Wembley - to provide a stern test for the champions.

And he was impressed with how fit and sharp the Wolves looked last week during their defeat by Wigan when they played short-handed after the red card for Chris Hill and the yellow for Mike Cooper.

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Lomax said: "It is a game between two quality sides.

"You saw that the other day – they didn’t get the win but the performance they provided, given they had 12 men for the majority of the game and a period 11.

"I am sure that they will take plenty of confidence from that.

"For us we are well aware of the fitness they showed, and is testament to how hard they must have worked.

"When you come into these games you expect a battle and that is we are expecting on Thursday night."

Lomax's duel with Blake Austin will be one of a number of intriguing battles tonight - with Stef Ratchford and Daryl Clark both pretty nippy if they get on the front foot.

"They have got threats all over the park," said Lomax.

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"Take Ben Murdoch-Masila, who looked fantastic the other day.

"We are well aware of those threats all over the field.

They are a quality side – and when you get two quality sides it is generally on the day that matters.

"The atmosphere is always electric, whether it is at our place or the Halliwell Jones. Both sets of fans definitely play their part and you gain energy from that."

Saints will go into the game without Lachlan Coote, who has been sidelined for two weeks or so with MCL knee injury.

In his place continues youngster Jack Welsby, who had an impressive game last week after starting on the wing and switching to full back when Coote departed.

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"We have lost a lot of experience in Cootey, but we are fortunate in that with Jack he provides an unknown, an energy and and a lot of danger from out the back of the field.

"It was great to see him go at the back end of the game," he said.

"He probably didn’t want to be on the wing, but he knew that was to repay him for the fantastic pre-season that he has had and the trust the boys have in him.

"I am sure he will be looking forward to Thursday night and us as boys know what he can bring.

"If there's something I can offer him advice with I will – but for the most part Jack is a quality player and has a skillset is slightly different to mine so you have to let his skillset run its course.

"He has got such an amazing amount of talent that you have just got to let him play."

Tonight will be the first game since Luke Thompson announced that he is departing for the NRL at the end of the season.

It is not an issue Lomax feels will impact on performances - both of the player and the team collectively.

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"We have known it has been ongoing for a while. That is something we will deal with in 10 or 12 months time.

"Luke is still a Saints player and for us, nothing changes with him.

"He is going to want to leave the club in the best possible state he can, at the end of the day he has got an emotional attachment to the club he has supported all his life.

"The reason is has been going on for so long is because it has been a decision that it is hard for him to make.

"We wish him all the best as boys but we can do that at the end of the year.

"We have have got a job to do and Tommo is well aware of his job and how he wants to finish his time at Saints," Lomax said.