[I had to change the example to make it clear that there are subdirectories.]
Let's say I want to recreate a subset of my hierarchy. for arguments sake, let's say I want to backup files in filelist.conf
# cat rsync-list ab* bb*
# find . . ./abc ./abc/file-in-abc ./abd ./abd/file-in-abd ./aca ./bba ./bbc ./bca ./rsync-list
I would have hoped that
rsync -arv --include-from=rsync-list --exclude='*' . /somewhere-else
would recreate abc, abd, bba, and bbc. the problem is that it does not descend into the ab* directories, so it does not do abc/file-in-abc and abd/file-in-abd. so, in this sense, the ab* is not really a wildcard that is expanded into abc and abd and then rsynced.