Sabbaticals are a bit like lockdowns, in that they have clear guidelines and serve a mandated purpose, but no one quite knows how to transition out of them.
These time-away deals are brilliant right up to the point when the players have to stuff their foreign loot into their kit bag and head home to New Zealand to work out how to resume their test careers.
That's the bit that troubles everyone, as if these sabbatical deals are something to celebrate when they are agreed and then a source of shame when they end.
It still feels, 13 years since the first of these agreements was reached with Dan Carter, that the returnees are not a subject to be brought up in polite conversation.
They come back to New Zealand to be treated like guests who have been invited to the cocktail party, but who have turned up severaly underdressed.
Convention has been for the hosts, in this case New Zealand Rugby, to smile and sneak them into the kitchen where they are given more suitable attire and pushed back out without a word said – presentable, welcomed and not a mention of them having previously been wearing cut off denim shorts.
NZR sees this as the best way to deal with the sabbatical, transition problem and doesn't appear to want to have stated expectations or written guidelines about how to bring the chosen few back into the fold.
There is no policy as such and instead, the pressure sits firmly on All Blacks coach Ian Foster to tackle what is an almost impossible task of working out how, when and possibly even if, Beauden Barrett, Brodie Retallick and TJ Perenara re-ignite their test careers when they respectively finish their club seasons in Japan.
The system is inherently unfair. Certain players are granted the right to play for vast sums of money in a competition that is clearly inferior in quality and intensity to Super Rugby Aotearoa and yet retain their eligibility to be immediately available for the All Blacks once they return.
The argument is that these players have earned that right. That through long, loyal and outstanding service Barrett, Retallick and Perenara are of such value to the game here that they can swing their career paths in a different direction to others.
Not everyone loves the idea of some players being more equal than others, but hasn't it always been thus in the All Blacks?
Hasn't longevity and track record been a means to create a hierarchy within the All Blacks for as long as anyone can remember?
The All Blacks captain has long roomed on his own and been better paid.
On the 1997 tour of the UK, captain Sean Fitzpatrick was given until just a few hours before kick-off to see if he could pass a fitness test to play Ireland.
Richie McCaw barely trained during the 2011 World Cup because of his broken foot yet he played every minute of the crucial games.
Sabbatical clauses are extensions, albeit extreme, of a hierarchical structure that has been prevalent in the All Blacks for decades.
But they still leave Foster in a quandary about how to tackle selection for the first tests of the year.
That's where the inequity of the system is felt as he has to compare the historic work of the returning players and their proven capacity as test performers against the form and contributions of the rest of the troops who have been slugging it out in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
There is no qualifier or asterisk attached to the eligibility of Barrett or Retallick for the July tests – Perenara is yet to commit longer term to New Zealand – but everyone agrees the coach would be inviting public outcry should he pick them both to start.
If there is an acknowledged but unstated stigma attached to starting these two in the first test of the year, when exactly does it become okay for Foster to re-introduce them into test football?
And that takes us back to the need for NZR to dictate a return to play policy for those who have been on a sabbatical.
The national body used to do precisely this every year in Super Rugby – create a policy on how much and when All Blacks could play in the first weeks of the competition.
Why not take the pressure off Foster and say Barrett and Retallick are only allowed to be on the bench for the first two tests and able to start the third?
Implementing a policy at least gives everyone clarity and to some degree, protects those who have slogged it out in Super Rugby without unduly punishing those who have been in Japan.