But the tortuous opener against Namibia, a team ranked 24th in the world, has made a mockery of such predictions and a dramatic improvement is essential if they are to reach the quarter-finals.
Georgia are next up for Eddie O'Sullivan's side, who must rediscover the form that lit up the end of their Six Nations campaign ahead of crucial Pool D collisions with France and Argentina.
But while Hickie acknowledges Ireland's start to the World Cup has been disappointing, he insists the team must continue to aim high.
"You have to say how you feel about these things - it's typical that us saying we want to win the World Cup is now being used as a stick to beat us," he said.
"We said we want to win it and when we start playing badly, everyone tells us we're not going to win the World Cup.
"It's a very Irish thing to do. We are ambitious and aren't in the competition to reach a quarter-final.
"We have to say we want to win it. It's part of the Irish psyche to hide your lights under a bushel, but there comes a time when you can't kid people.
"We have to say this is what we're aiming for. If people want to use our ambition as a stick to beat us, there is nothing we can do about it.
"We don't regret being ambitious because if weren't, we would not be doing our jobs properly."
The shambles against Namibia delivered a sobering blow to Ireland, who were clearly shaken by one of the nation's worst performances in recent memory.
Hickie has revealed the players have taken full responsibility for the error-strewn opener, absolving the coaching staff of any blame in the process.
And the Leinster winger has urged his team to repay the loyalty shown by O'Sullivan after the Ireland coach selected virtually the same side to face Georgia in Bordeaux on Saturday.