When is a Six Nations record not a record?

Wales No.8 Taulupe Faletau is set for his 23rd consecutive Six Nations Test on Friday. AFP / PAUL ELLIS

No.8s have made themselves noticed all over the first two weeks of the Six Nations, but it is Taulupe Faletau who has caught the eye of the statisticians.

As the camera paused on Wales's Tongan-descended No.8 during the opening weekend in Dublin, the television commentator explained that he was playing his 21st consecutive championship match -- breaking the Welsh Six Nations record for No.8s previously held by Scott Quinnell.

He'll take that run to 23 come Friday night in Cardiff, an impressive effort in terms of durability and consistency in form. But a record? As ever with Welsh No.8s, the mind immediately shifts to the late Mervyn Davies. His entire championship career -- 31 matches in eight seasons -- was consecutive.

We have also been hearing of another 'record' -- Scotland's unhappy current run of nine consecutive defeats. But as any historically informed Scottish fan knows only too well, they lost 15 times in a row between 1951 and 1955.

There is an echo here of the 'Premier League record' in football, elevating everything since the rebranding of the First Division in 1992 as separate to, and by implication superior to, the 92 seasons which went before. There is, of course, a reason for that. It suits the historical narrative created by the broadcasters.

There is no such obvious agenda for their counterparts in rugby, they are not misleading us intentionally or otherwise. Shifts in titles create problems for all media. But where ESPNScrum's Statsguru can refer in print to 'Five/Six Nations', it would sound oddly clumsy as speech. And the tournament organisers supply an excellent media handbook full of statistical information, particularly for the period since 2000. We all use it.

But the 'Six Nations record' sits oddly with a competition much of whose appeal, emphasised by all media, rests on its continuity over more than a century. The Six Nations era represents only 17 out of 122 seasons, less than one seventh of that span. Some all-time records, particularly in point-scoring and appearances, have been set during that period. But others stretch back over the longer run.

The risk of separating the most recent is, as with football, of systematically undervaluing the more distant past. Every week that we are reminded of Alan Shearer's 'record' 260 Premier League goals, the 357 scored at top level by Jimmy Greaves recede further from collective consciousness. Privilege the Six Nations over earlier rugby, and the same will start to happen to Merv, Jack Kyle, Jean Prat, Wavell Wakefield and Gavin Hastings.

And rugby union is, as the World Cup opening ceremony's gratuitous reinflation of the Webb Ellis myth showed, careless enough of its history as it is.

The damage is probably done in football thanks to a combination of vested interest, passive acceptance by other media and the passage of time. But it shouldn't yet be too late in rugby. The 'Six Nations record' should be challenged for what it is -- an ahistorical infestation, privileging a fraction of the championship's history over the rest. And bad history is never good for us.