The defensive tactics used by England's World Cup winning team

The complete strategy behind my Iron Curtain Defence

Iron Curtain Defence is a multi-regional DVD that will play anywhere in the world.

Dear Coach,

Do you find yourself tearing your hair out when your team concede a soft try?

Players tackle hard all game, but if they're out of position and leave gaps in your defensive line, what good is that?

A comprehensive defensive strategy will help your team dictate the course of the game even when the opposition has the ball.

My DVD contains drills and techniques to show you how to run the defensive strategy in my Iron Curtain Defence – performed correctly you will thwart your opponents' attacking options.

Whole team defending

My Iron Curtain Defence involves your whole team working together as one. One of the first things I stress is that a player rushing up to make a tackle can leave his defensive line exposed and give the opposition holes to run through.

Players must work together.

With my strategy, your players will work together in units or packs to hunt down the ball carrier and close off any area in which they can attack.

My defensive strategy involves a straight line defensive system that will block and close down your opposition – forcing them to either move the ball wide or kick. And your defence will be organised so that extensive cover is provided for both these options.

Players work in sets of three, including your wingers and full back, who will know where to be when the attacking team is forced to kick to launch a counter-attack.

These defensive tactics have been proven to work time and time again with top teams.

Easy to follow drills to turn defensive strategy into reality

My clearly explained drills and exercises will help your players carry out my defensive strategy when it really counts on match day. They are performed by players so you can see exactly how they should run.

You can recreate them on the training ground or play the DVD to your team and explain what your players should be doing.


Who is Phil Larder?

Phil Larder MBE played rugby union for Broughton Park and Sale before moving to League and playing for Oldham and then Whitehaven.

He coached the England rugby league team at the 1995 World Cup and the Great Britain and Ireland league side which toured New Zealand in 1996.

He then switch to rugby union and coached Sale before moving to Leicester Tigers. He helped the Tigers to a four-year winning run in the Guinness Premiership with Heineken Cup victories in 2001 and 2002.

He was the first specialist coach appointed by Clive Woodward in 1997. He was appointed defence coach.

His defensive strategy underpinned the team's victory at the World Cup in the 2003 World Cup.

He was appointed defence coach for the British and Irish Lions tours of 2001 and 2005.



Over time my defensive strategy will become second nature and your players will feel confident in defence.

The tactics in my Iron Curtain Defence rely on a relatively high standard of tackling ability from your team, so is best used with team aged 15+ or those with excellent technique and tactical understanding at lower age grades.

Once they master it though, you will have a strategy that few teams will be able to deal with.

A few kind words of praise for my defensive strategy:

"Phil was the best defensive coach I have ever worked with and his work and passion was the key to England not only winning the World Cup in 2003, but becoming the number one ranked team in world rugby. We worked together with England for seven years and his work on our defence enabled us all to realise our dreams and changed the way defence was coached across the world…

Phil Larder was simply the best."

Sir Clive Woodward, World Cup winning head coach of England

"A strong defence was what we built our successful world cup campaign around and Phil was the mastermind behind it."

Martin Johnson CBE, World Cup winning captain of England

And here's praise from fellow coaches around the world who have bought the DVD:

We have used the "Iron Curtain" defense for the past 2 years at our High School Girls rugby program. Last year in Division 2 we scored 237 points and gave up only 5, so no surprise we were moved to Division 1. Today we are playing for the Division 1 Championship.

Jeff Gatter

Defense Coach, Unionville Ladies Rugby Program, Pennsylvania

I have found the DVD very useful and the exercises have undoubtedly helped my squad to tighten up on defence. As U14s we conceded 62 tries over the season but since using Phil Larder's tactics as U15s they reduced that number to 44, nearly 30% fewer! Whilst commitment to the tackle must be taken as read, the improved defensive organisation has produced a team which is much harder to score against and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to understand that if you concede fewer points you win more games.
Dai Bugler
Level 2 coach, Alton RFC

"I had watched the All Black's defence in 2005 and wanted a tangible way to replicate the mechanics of what I saw on TV. My prayer was answered when I bought Phil's DVD from his expertise working with WC winners England. I used the DVD to systematically reconstruct the organization and body-mechanics of my team. In 2009 we won the league undefeated 14-14 games and were promoted. That was after using the DVD two games into the season. This is an excellent DVD."

Jack Rees, Head Coach Greenwich University Rugby 2006-2010

My team has put the iron curtain defense to good use.  Our overall commitment and organization on defense has improved markedly.  It has given us the foundation skills to develop a team defensive program that works for our style of play, skill/experience level and fitness.  I would recommend this to any coach who wants a credible defense.  Phil Larder is the Man!

Semper Fi,

Bill Bell, Citadel Men's Rugby Head Coach, President, Palmetto Rugby Union

As Program Director for Westside Youth Rugby and Coach for the SWARM Girls High School Rugby team, I am always looking for a way to improve our rugby programs. Phil Larder's Iron Curtain Defense made our defensive scheme more organized and efficient. By allowing each player to cover the area that they are capable of defending, the players were able to spread out and cover more of the pitch. In our first year using this system, the SWARM Girls Rugby team was able to win the Division 2 State Championships.  I attribute a great deal of our success to Phil Larder's Iron Curtain Defense.


Gary Hobbs SWARM Girls Rugby, Coach


Phil Larder's "Iron Curtain" DVD  has helped Llandaff Under 13's tremendously this season. The ideas and drills have come at just the right time for us. We were always quite committed in defence but now we are much more organised and so our efforts are far better rewarded. Phil's explanations are crystal clear and seeing the drills put into practice by the Loughborough players was tremendous help to me and has enabled me to explain things much more clearly to my players.

The DVD is easy to use and I am sure we will revisit the principles explained on numerous occasions in the years to come.

Best wishes

Geoff Jones - Llandaff RFC

Phil Larder describes and explains his Iron Curtain Defence so well that I have been able to use it with my French players! The principles are simply explained, well demonstrated in practise and also graphically depicted in an easy to understand manner. Absolutely invaluable.

Merci Phil.

Gary Shanahan – Carmaux rugby club (near Toulouse).

I highly recommend Phil Larder's Iron Curtain Defence video I have employed in with coaches and teachers across a wide age range and found it to be an effective tool to unlock defensive principles and provide both excellent foundational understanding and practical  examples of how to set defensive patterns.  It empowers both player and coach to recognise potential attacking threats and how to make decisions and provides defensive solutions and options.

Dr Tom Browne, Associate Professor Nanyang University, IRB Coach Educator and Director Barbarians Centre of Excellence


It has given my players greater confidence, organisation and helped in their understanding of their respective roles on defence.  Whilst not winning more games this year, we have closed the gap between us and the bigger teams at such a rate that everyone is talking about us.  We even made the local newspapers a few times.  Instead of losing by 50 every second week – like last season, we're losing by less than 7 with the same players. All this by simply implementing some of the principles from the dvd.

André Hendriks

Group Leader: General Affairs



The "Iron Curtain Defence" DVD is an excellent coaching resource for me at School. We have used it regularly in 1st XV analysis sessions and the DVD is clear, well presented and a valuable tool for understanding the principles of team defence. It is used by a number of my Coaches at School.


Steve Adams - Wellingborough School

The video is excellent, Phil sets out his defensive structure in a way which is easy to follow and simple to implement. 
The improvement in our teams defence was almost immediate, in the next match the teams defence was far better organised and our opponents ended up continually trying to kick over the top of the defence and usually handed us possession.  We won that game and the victory was almost entirely due to a well organised and committed defence which was inspired by Phil's video.
Best regards
Coach Milton Keynes RUFC

Phil Larder has proved himself with his record in both codes of rugby at the highest level. His DVD explains his philosophies, principles and methods, in a very understanding and simple manner... a tool that all ambitious coaches should possess,
highly recommended.

Carter Croft, Swiss National, Swiss U 20, Swiss 7s, former skills coach in France Pro 2.

The Iron Curtain Defence is a good tool to have. It helped to put in place a defence structure and brought about a better understanding of how the team should work together in defence.We are continuously working with our players to be able to make effective tackles and on quick reaction to match the pace of the passes to the outside.One is in a position to develop the approach to defend play beyond 2 nd and 3 rd phase based on the guidelines provided.

Defence wins games, this is a good weapon  for every serious coach to have.




My DVD is a multi-regional DVD that will play anywhere in the world.

It will help your team improve in the following areas:

  Key principles of defence – these are discussed in detail. Your players will understand why rushing up in defence can be an error and how working with other players can be more effective in closing down an attack than going it alone.

  Skills needed to defend efficiently – awareness, communication and game understanding are all addressed

Tackling technique – the perfect tackle technique to perform my defensive strategy is vital. You will see it performed in detail along with the double tackle.

  Muscle in the middle – How to dominate the middle of the field and force the opposition out wide, where the touchline acts as another defender.

Set piece defence – I will show you how to structure your team to combat attacks from a set piece.

Kick and chase – your wingers and fullback will know where to position themselves when the oppoenents kick, whether it is a kick and chase, or a kick to touch.

The "Pendulum"...

This is how I explain one of the key principles of my defensive strategy. A pendulum moves back and forth in a slight curve. Follow the techniques and skills in my DVD and your defence will operate in a similar way, moving from side to side to close down your opponents.

Years of training sessions in one complete coaching DVD...

This DVD is designed to help you create a defensive system that will shut out the opposition in attack. It comprises all my years of experience with the England rugby team, condensed and clearly illustrated for you to use with your team.


Without a solid defence your team will never amount to much. After tackle technique, a tight defensive system can play havoc with the opposition.

For many teams a strong Iron Curtain Defence can underpin a whole team strategy, forcing the opposition into mistakes or giving the ball away.

It's worked for a lot of the teams I've coached and I'm confident it can help your team too.

Yours in rugby,


Phil Larder

P.S. This DVD contains easy to follow drills to turn defensive strategy into reality. Get your copy now!

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